St Jude's Laundry charity axes staff in cash crisis

DISABLED workers at a city charity have told of their shock after they learned their jobs no longer existed.

By The Newsroom
Wednesday, 20th January 2016, 10:30 am
Updated Wednesday, 20th January 2016, 10:36 am
Roderick Fraser and his sister Maureen Smith. Picture: Neil Hanna
Roderick Fraser and his sister Maureen Smith. Picture: Neil Hanna

Forth Sector, which runs the well-known St Jude’s Laundry, axed 17 roles yesterday after suffering a series of financial problems.

Staff had been told two weeks ago that the charity was going to have to make cutbacks – but insist they had no idea of the timescale involved.

One worker who has been with the laundry for almost 30 years said he turned up for work as normal yesterday, only to find that he was no longer needed.

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Roderick Fraser, 56, cannot read or write and suffers from schizophrenia.

He lives with his sister Maureen Smith in Northfield Crescent.

She said the siblings had been left feeling “cold” and criticised the short consultation period, which began just after the New Year.

Workers and their families or guardians were sent a letter last week highlighting that cuts were being planned. However, Ms Smith said the short timescale and the extent was not made clear.

But she said she knew something was amiss when she was asked to attend the laundry yesterday morning for a briefing.

She said: “He was just told [yesterday], that was it, from then – you’re no longer employed at Forth Sector.

“They said ‘you can just empty your locker now’. I just thought it was really cold.

“They read out what they had to do, and unfortunately Roderick is one of the people getting made redundant.

“He doesn’t understand. He’ll miss all his friends. It’s been a long time – it’s all he knows.

“It’s horrible, I just don’t know what we’ll do next.

“We need to do something for Roderick. Even if they’d said [he could work] a couple of weeks.”

St Jude’s Laundry has existed for almost half a century and moved to new premises at Duddingston Yards last year.

Bosses at the not-for-profit organisation admitted that trading had been tough and that Forth Sector as a whole was losing money.

They said they had been left with no choice but to reduce the number of people employed in an attempt to stem the tide.

In total, 17 staff were made redundant yesterday, following one worker leaving last November and another one due to go in March.

The 19 redundancies make up around a quarter of what was a 79-strong workforce.

Bill Howat, Forth Sector’s chair, said the charity – which has contracts with the city council and receives funding from groups including the Big Lottery Fund – understood the distress caused and would do everything it could to help the affected workers find new jobs.

In 2014, the Engine Shed, a cafe and bakery in the Capital which employed disabled adults, was forced to close after the city council withdrew its funding.