supporting the most vulnerable members of society, and helping them to live as full and productive a life as possible, has to be one of the most important roles we play as a community.
That is what the Engine Shed does – in spadefuls. It is impossible to read the testimony of so many parents whose children have flourished there and remain unmoved. For many, the Engine Shed provides a stepping stone between home and the world of work. Without taking their first steps in its welcoming environment, many would never build the confidence and skills to work elsewhere.
And, despite the council highlighting a lack of “graduates” moving on to fully-paid jobs last year, there are plenty of Engine Shed success stories. They can be found, at various times, in the kitchens of Edinburgh Castle, the Commie Pool, Standard Life and elsewhere across the city.
Sadly, publicly supported work like this is out of favour with the Scottish Government and, as a result, the city council. That means this innovative enterprise risks following Blindcraft and Remploy into history.
Of course, the council is right to say we should listen to the people who benefit from this kind of supported employment. And the aim of finding them jobs in mainstream workplaces is laudable.
But the drive to shut down supported workplaces in a misguided attempt at instant integration is bound to end in failure.
Without institutions like this, the barriers to finding work for many people with the most complex needs suddenly become so much higher. Insisting that everyone joins a fast-track programme to mainstream work means many who are not ready to face the challenge will be left behind. Consigning them to the work scrapheap is a false economy.
There is a place for institutions like the Engine Shed, and many families agree. Are the council listening to them?