Ian Hood: Loss of Engine Shed is bad news

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Edinburgh’s Engine Shed is now in the process of closing and will wind up over the next six months. This vital service provided much need training support for young people with special needs when they left school and college. It gave them time to get ready for the world of work before going on to get jobs.

However it was dependent on a grant from Edinburgh Council to continue operations but the council decided that the varied services delivered by six providers should move to a single service under one contract from April 2015. This new funded service is to be based on a ‘supported employment’ model i.e. where individuals are helped to get jobs and then supported once there. This will help many people.

But the council is moving away from providing training opportunities and investing all its money in helping young people directly get jobs. When it was first proposed many people thought this was short-sighted and did not take into account all the differing needs of young people with special needs. At the Learning Disability Alliance, we still do.

Nine out of ten people with a learning disability do not have a job and you can’t shoehorn everyone with a disability into a single type of service.

Having a learning disability doesn’t mean that people can’t learn new things – it means that people need different types of help and take longer to learn.

Many people with learning disabilities have spent many years in segregated services and need additional time to learn all things other people take for granted such as why its important to be on time, how to get on with people in a workplace, how to do what the boss tells you.

These are critical things for getting and keeping jobs and some people learned about them in services like the Engine Shed and then moved on to paid employment. Similar services exist in town all over Scotland, the Spoon Café in Glasgow, and the Walled Garden in Perth. But no longer in Edinburgh.

Instead we worry that the new service with its payment by results – about 70 per cent of the funding for the new services comes after people have got jobs – will lead to cherry picking as those people are most able become the ones targeted for help to work and people who need more support get left out.

Is this the new Scotland we are voting for on September 18th? One where the most vulnerable citizens are left behind?

Ian Hood is co-ordinator of the Learning Disability Alliance