Rumours are beginning to emerge from deep within Edinburgh Council that a change of approach to supported employment in Edinburgh will be announced in September. After much discussion and a lot of campaigning, councillors from Edinburgh seem to be proposing a Status Quo approach for the next year. During that time, careful thought will be given to how new developments can be married with the existing structure of services to ensure that people continue to get support. Serious attention is likely to be given to whether competitive tendering is an appropriate way to manage supported employment services and a more constructive approach will be looked at.
This is likely to mean the Engine Shed will continue to receive financial support from Edinburgh City Council so the trainees, bakery, canteen and tofu users as well as staff can breathe easily.
Also those who use services like the Real Jobs Project to get into mainstream employment will not have to worry about their support being pulled away from them.
Other projects like the Woodhall, Scottish Braille Press, Intowork and Forth Sector will also benefit from this.
Opportunities for work for people with learning disabilities are hard to come by and hard to maintain. Many of these organisations have built up huge amounts of experience and personal contacts that cannot be valued and rolled up into contract tender. This decision is a chance to consider who important local knowledge can be maintained to benefit people who need considerable help to get started in life.
The Scottish Government already values what’s called “preventative services” – a system where you give someone a little help now so they don’t need a lot of help later. Supported employment is just that – an opportunity for people to begin to earn money, make new friends and acquaintances and to claim a place in wider society.
Overall it is excellent news – Thanks to Frank Ross, Gordon Munro and all the staff at the council who have worked to pull this rabbit out of the hat. Thanks also to all those that supported the campaign and thanks to all those councillors who have listened to what was being said and have proposed this helpful way forward.