Supported Employment in Edinburgh

The Learning Disability Alliance Scotland has met over the last week with service users of supported employment services over concerns they have had over recent developments within Edinburgh. This short briefing paper provides some notes on the situation and possible solutions. 


In 2011 a number of projects offering supported employment to people with disabilities were transferred from Health and Social Care to Corporate Services.  Responsibility for the future of these projects now rests with Economic Development Services.

A recent paper – Review of Disability Employment Support Services in Edinburgh – has proposed that Economic Development Services reorganise its third sector supported employment services from an “employment pathway” approach into a single agency delivering “pure supported employment.”

The employment pathway approach sees a range of personalised step for individuals in getting ready for employment, securing job and keeping them.  It encompasses volunteering, training and employment support.

The new model will use a five step model to help individuals move into and keep employment.

The report in itself makes no recommendation on the future of the Engine Shed.  It only says its model does not fit within the “pure supported employment” model.


Subsequent briefing meetings with senior council officials have raised the following issues that have raised concerns among those who use supported employment services funded by the City of Edinburgh Council.

1.       Supported businesses such as the Engine Shed will not be funded after a council report is approved on June 25th 2013.

2.       For those agencies that do provide “pure supported employment”, they will have to take part in a competitive tender process in order to have the opportunity to continue in business.

The Engine Shed is valued because it:

·         Gives young people time to mature after school.  The trainees have time to develop the range of personal and vocational skills needed to help them toward independence

·         Helps young people get new skills in all sorts of work skills but also in being disciplined and turning up for work.   It structures their day in a way that gives them a really good work discipline.

·         Helps young people learn in a peer support situation – where other young people already are working and they can learn by doing and watch what the others are already doing.

·         Helps a high number of its trainees get paid work when they finish their time at the project.  Most of the other young people move on to college or further training.

·         Is part of a supported employment process that helps young people get ready for work.  Even where they don’t get jobs straight away, they are better placed to get work for having been at the engine shed.

·         Raises nearly 50% of its costs from the businesses that it runs – the bakery – food processing – hospitality – the café – conference facilities

·         Is part of a coherent plan for supported employment for people with learning disabilities within Edinburgh that lets young people grow and learn new skills before moving on to paid employment. Their training programme included all the supported employment elements i.e. building up a vocational profile, work experience placements, job finding, on the job support etc.

The Action Group’s Real Jobs Project is valued because

·         It provides a “pure supported employment” model that takes people with the skills they have and support them both into a job and throughout the time they keep it.

·         It is available to step in and “problem solve” in difficult situations.

·         It has a 20 year track record of service delivery that vulnerable people can rely on.

·         It helps people get into real jobs alongside ordinary people putting their training and skills to work.

Comments and Conclusion

1.       The review paper is a good exploration of the issues of supported employment and its methods propose a genuine way of helping disabled people into work.

2.       “Pure Supported Employment” cannot be the only way of helping disabled people into jobs.

3.       A truly personalised range of services will have a number of options for individuals, their families and their advisors to choose from depending on their needs.

4.       Funding should be found to maintain the Engine Shed and a decision taken about the right place for the service to be located with the Council Departmental structure.

5.       There is no mention of a “competitive tendering” process in the “Review”, instead a cooperative approach to service development is indicated.


6.       A Public Social Partnership along the lines proposed in the “Review” should be developed to build a one door supported employment services that builds on the local skills identified through the report in organisations like the Real Jobs Service and Intowork.

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