There was welcome news this week with the announcement that the Engine Shed has been saved from Council funding cuts.
The Council has confirmed that the Engine Shed, which provides training in a workplace setting for young adults with learning disabilities, will continue to receive funding for the next financial year at least.
Reports emerged in May that the social enterprise, which has been running since 1989, was under threat. Following the reports I met with representatives from the Engine Shed and raised their concerns with senior councillors stressing the need to ensure that people with learning disabilities don’t lose out.
The organisation runs a very successful community café, a bakery and shop and in recent years has expanded into hosting meetings and seminars. It’s a social enterprise so any profit is reinvested into the organisation.
Over the years I’ve met many trainees who have moved on from the scheme to find mainstream work.
The training and work experience provided by the Engine Shed recognises the particular barriers disabled people face to access employment. These barriers are difficult to overcome in the good times when jobs are available, but in the current climate they have become even bigger. The supported employment sector in Edinburgh has been hit in recent years with the closure of BlindCraft and Remploy so the announcement on the Engine Shed is some much needed good news.
Less than half the people of working age with a disability are currently employed, despite many having the talent, skills and desire that would make them excellent employees.
The Engine Shed model is transformative – providing people with the skills and confidence to find work and helping them to a position where they can support themselves.
The proposals that could have seen the project close were part of a shake-up of services for disabled people in the city. The announcement of continued funding provides another year’s grace for the Engine Shed but the challenge is now on for the Council to find a long-term solution that will protect employment opportunities for disabled workers.