Friday, May 31, 2013

Re-posting: The Engine Shed

City of Edinburgh Council: Stop the Closure of the Engine Shed.

To: Frank Ross, Chair of the Economy Committee
Gordon Munro, Vice Chair of the Economy Committee
Stop the Closure of the Engine Shed.

The Edinburgh Engine Shed works with vulnerable young people to help them gain skills, confidence and self esteem to get paid employment through running a café, bakery and shop. They raise over £245,000 a year from the business but Edinburgh Council are looking at taking away their share of the funding which will leave the Engine Shed with no choice but to close losing both an important service and a valuable community resource for the south of Edinburgh. We, the undersigned, ask the City Of Edinburgh Council to keep funding the Engine Shed, an important social business that helps young people with learning disabilities and other special needs.
 
On the 25 of June the Economy Committee of the City Of Edinburgh Council is due to hear a report which will recommend withdrawing funding from the Engine Shed, a social business run by Gavald Enterprises. The Engine Shed gives young people time to mature after school. The trainees have time to learn how to get on in a work situation with the right support for their needs The Engine Shed 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. The Engine Shed 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. The Engine Shed supports 30 young people with an average age of 19. The Engine Shed helps lots 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. Young people leave the Engine Shed to go and work in lots of places such as Starbucks, Costa Coffee, Standard Life, the University of Edinburgh, Domino’s Pizzas and Sodexo. The Engine Shed raises nearly 50% of its costs from the businesses that it runs – the Bakery – Food Processing – Hospitality – the Café – The Wholefood Shop. Financially the council contributes £200,000 to the Engine Shed. That works out at only about £100 per week per trainee.
 
Please do what you can to make sure this very important service carries on.
Sincerely,
[Your name]

What Sheila Gilmore MP for Edinburgh East for has to say about it: 

Something of an Edinburgh institution, many people have enjoyed lunch or a coffee at the Engine Shed cafe.  It is well known for providing good value and quality in addition to the invaluable training for young people with learning disabilities.  So it was not perhaps surprising that within 5 days of a newspaper report saying the Engine Shed might have to close more than 5000 people had signed a petition against closure.  Over 7000 people have now signed the petition which can be found at http://chn.ge/13ZdYEu.  

It is understood that the Economy Committee of the City Council is planning to make changes in the way it helps people with illnesses and disabilities get into employment.  Recommendations from the Scottish Government state that service providers should concentrate more on getting people into mainstream employment and give them ongoing support to stay in such employment.  It would appear that a variety of organisations will be invited to tender for this work, and this would include current providers such as the Engine Shed.  With all such tendering processes a lot depends on the specification of the service being asked for, and until this is available it is difficult to know how easy it would be for the Engine Shed to bid for this work.

There is due to be a report providing the full details which should be discussed at the next Economy Committee meeting on Tuesday 25 June 2013 and the papers usually become available one week before at www.edinburgh.gov.uk/cpol.

I was worried when I saw the newspaper report and especially some of the comments attributed to the council, because it sounded very similar to the approach being taken by the Coalition Government in relation to the Remploy factories, many of which are earmarked for closure.  One of the Government's main arguments for this was that it would be better for disabled people to be in mainstream employment rather than in 'segregated' or 'sheltered' workplaces. This has led to a considerable debate both about the principle (is segregated or sheltered employment always bad for instance?) and the practicalities especially at a time of when jobs are generally scarce.  There are concerns that many Remploy workers may end up unemployed.

The 'model' the Scottish Government recommends (which it appears the council is adopting) is one where organisations help disabled people search for jobs, and work with employers to encourage them to employ people they might not otherwise consider (e.g. by guiding them to funding sources for workplace adjustments).   The work done by the Engine Shed is rather different giving people longer term training opportunities in their social enterprise, and is not clear how the other model would  allow that to continue.

So the issue is a bit more complex than simply a ‘cut in grant’ and we will have to watch this space when committee meets in June.  The petition is still open for signature at http://chn.ge/13ZdYEu and I know many people have also contacted their local councillors to express their views.
TO SIGN THE PETITION AND FIND OUT MORE PLEASE CLICK HERE

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