AUTHOR Ian Rankin today added his voice to the calls to save The Engine Shed from being axed.
The Rebus author, a long-time supporter of the cafe and bakery which provides employment to disabled people, spoke after parents across the city reacted with fury to the news that it is set to lose its vital £211,000 annual funding.
The St Leonards project, which has been running for nearly 25 years, has helped hundreds of vulnerable young people over the years giving them the skills and confidence to find mainstream employment.
Rankin, who name checked The Engine Shed in one of his most popular Inspector Rebus novels, Dead Souls, said the withdrawal of the funding was “bad news”.
He said: “I used to go to The Engine Shed fairly regularly when I lived in that part of town.
“It was a great place to pop in for a meal and it gives employment to people who need it.”
Launched in 1989 with a similar ethos to Rudolf Steiner schools – focusing on the unique abilities of each individual – The Engine Shed is part of Garvald Community social enterprise and runs a cafe and conference facilities, a bakery and outside catering.
In 2009, Rankin helped raise money for Garvald by auctioning the chance to have a pie and a pint with him in the Oxford Bar – the pub made famous as the favourite haunt of Rebus.
He said: “Garvald is a terrific organisation. It’s disappointing that the council is withdrawing funding from an organisation that’s a really useful part of the community.”
The institution offers three years’ training to 30 vulnerable young adults at a time. But a shake-up of employment training for the disabled by the city council means it faces being stripped of its funding.
Ian Wood, Learning Disability Alliance Scotland coordinator, said a petition and a Facebook campaign – Save the Edinburgh Engine Shed – has now been set up. He said: “The campaign has only just started but it has already been very well supported.
“Many of the families affected by the news have been writing to their councillors and plan to visit their surgeries to let them know just how much this service means to them.
“I’m convinced that many councillors won’t have realised the implications of what has been put forward in this report.”
Gavin Johnstone, 46, from Baberton, whose 20-year-old son, Christopher, has a training placement at The Engine Shed, said he believed the proposal to slash the council funding was poorly thought through.
He said: “The council has said that The Engine Shed does not fit a particular type of model but where is the evidence that the model they propose is the right one? If The Engine Shed closes, what are they going to put in its place – it’s not a one size fits all situation.”
The city council said it was still in the public consultation stage before final recommendations go to committee on June 25.