Engine Shed Briefing for Scottish Parliament S4M-11033# Sarah Boyack:

Created on 02 December 2014

Edinburgh’s Engine Shed is now in the process of closing and will wind up over the next 3 months. The closure of this service raises a number of issues that are of interest to policies.

  • 1.       Lack of long term funding for supported employment
  • 2.       Policy rush to accommodate new ideas
  • 3.       Cherry picking of those most able to achieve employment
  • 4.       “Give back” funding to win contracts
  • 5.       Lack of choice of personalised suport

The Engine Shed in Edinburgh provided organic bread, tofu and other food stuffs, ran a popular café and well used conference facilities.  But it’s main job was to provide training opportunities for 30 young people with learning disabilities, autism and other special needs.   Over a three year placement these young people had plenty of time to get ready for the world of work.

The Engine Shed has an impressive record of helping young people move into paid employment.   They raised over half the running costs themselves.   Edinburgh Council backed its operations with an essential grant to pay for the staff that provided the training.  But the value of this grant had fallen over time.  The Engine Shed was getting less money in 2013 than they did in 2003.  Many other organisations have the same problems as local authority funding is squeezed.

In 2013 the council announced a new plan.   Instead of just funding the six Edinburgh organisations which helped people with disabilities get job, a competitive tender would see a single service start in April 2015.  This would be based on a ‘supported employment ‘model i.e. where individuals are placed in work and then given support.   The council would move its support away from training opportunities.

Although this will be suitable for some people, it definitely won’t be appropriate for all the clients the Engine Shed support as they require much more help to even get to the point where employment becomes even worth considering.

At the time many people thought this was short-sighted and did not take into account the differing needs of young people with special needs.  Supported employment works well for many but not all.  So thousands signed petitions, wrote to councillors and were able to win a year’s reprieve for the service.

But over the last 12 months, despite the fine words and intentions of some councillors, the policy of the council didn’t change.  It continued to pursue the single approach to helping people into work and all the special employment services were put out to competitive tender in May.  Payment to the winning organisation or consortium would be by the number of jobs achieved.

The Engine Shed tried to join up with one of the consortiums but their share of a successful bid would have been only a quarter of their existing grant. This would have been a pyrrhic victory leading to closure in months.

The Engine Shed management tried various things to keep going.   Council staff made various suggestions to help.  There was even specialist advice to improve the business but nothing was proposed to end the long term pressure on funding.

The Engine Shed was running out of options.  They couldn’t make changes quick enough to develop the business side to increase trading income to meet shortfall in grants.  Reluctantly the management of the Engine Shed has decided to close and to examine new opportunities to “rebirth” the service in the future.

There are a number of areas that should be of real concern here.

LONG TERM FUNDING

Supported Employment for adults with learning disabilities has never had a clear recognised source of funding.  Many DWP programmes aim for people wht disabilities who are closer to the labour market than people with learning disabilities who need longer term interventions.  Local authority social work departments  often funded supported employment as an outcome of their day services.  As local authorities move away from day centre provision, continuing involvement  in this area may be questioned.

Moving funding from social work to economic development may make sense but this is what happened in Edinburgh and has led to the closure of the Engine Shed.    Economic Development departments have much wider responsibility for the local economy and manage on relatively few staff and little experience in this area.

There is a case to be made for long term strategic leadership in this area from the Scottish Government.

POLICY RUSH

There are elements in the Council’s process of “policy rush”.  A new policy is decided and suddenly it’s the only show in town.  “We now need to support people after they get a job and not train them first.  So that will be the only thing going.”

The problem is the people who lose out are those furthest from the job market, those with little experience and skill who need help.  There was no need to take this approach.  Council staff could have split the funding into two sections – one for training and one for supported employment.  But in the headlong rush to this new policy, no one stopped to say what if this isn’t right for everyone.

CHERRY PICKING

Payment by results policies puts pressure on organisations to get more people into work.  30% of the funding will be linked to the numbers that get jobs,  only payable after jobs are secured.   Even a low proportion like this is essential to the longer stability of organisations.    The pressure will be on to achieve success by helping those closest to the job market to the detriment of those needing more intensive support.    People with learning disabilities who need more support and time to enter the labour market just like those who use the Engine Shed will be at the end of the queue.

GIVE BACK

Tendering for social care services means that organisations who want to win have to put in a competitive bid.  GIVE BACK is a term has sprung up for how this works.  The organisation works out what they could do for the total money and then decides how much to GIVE BACK  and then reduces their service by 5-10%.  This lower bid has a better chance of winning.

Organisations reason better to have a reduced service than none but this means that the service is reduced in scope and intensity.  Instead of a properly planned service with agreed standards, we have the market deciding the support of our most vulnerable.

LACK OF CHOICE

The Scottish Government’s new policy of Self Directed Support is meant to mean choice for those that use services.  A single tendered contract means that people can get only the service the council has chosen.   Those that want training have no choice while the Engine Shed slowly vanishes.

The question no one knows the answer to yet is how many other services that people with learning disabilities rely on are also suffering from a gradual restriction on council funding, competitive tendering and give back?  Will they go the same way as the Engine Shed?

The Closure Of The Engine Shed – A Warning To The Government?

Created on 10 October 2014

Edinburgh’s Engine Shed is now in the process of closing and will wind up over the next 6 months. But are other services facing a similar fate?

Last year thousands of people signed petitions and protested against the closure of Edinburgh’s Engine Shed.  This vital service provided much need training for young people with special needs when they left school and college.  It gave them time to get ready for the world of work.  The Engine Shed was also popular because of its café, wholesome foods and conference facilities.

However it was dependent on a grant from Edinburgh Council to continue operations.  But those grants have been under pressure for a while and further cuts are proposed in the 2015-16 budget.

Edinburgh’s specialist employability services to date have been delivered by six providers, the Engine Shed being one of these.  A plan proposed a move to a single service from April 2015.  This new service would to be based on a ‘supported employment ‘model i.e. where individuals are placed in work and then supported

The council would  move away from training opportunities and invest all its money in helping young people directly get jobs.  At the time many people thought this was short-sighted and did not take into account the differing needs of young people with special needs and were able to win a year’s reprieve for the service.

However despite the fine words and intention of some councillors, the policy of the council did not change and it continued to pursue a single approach to helping people with learning disabilities into work.  It put all the special employment service out to competitive tender.

Payment to the winning groups would be by the number of jobs achieved.   Even if a service like the Engine Shed was part of the winning bid, their 3 year training programme would mean only a quarter of their existing grant.

The Engine Shed tried to negotiate alternative funding to keep going.  Council staff made various suggestions to help, but none of them were ever realistically enough to fund the Engine Shed.  It was just enough to say they made the effort.

The Engine Shed went on to get specialist advice to improve how it ran its business  but nothing was proposed to end the long term pressure on grants.  For many years, stand still budgets for voluntary organisations  have been common.  The grant remains the same but costs keep on rising.  Reserves get spent, wages are cut and reductions in service become commonplace.  The Engine Shed was getting less money in 2013 than they did in 2003.

For the Engine Shed, they were running out of options.  They couldn’t make changes quick enough to beat the problems of the recession.

Reluctantly the management of the Engine Shed has decided to close and to examine new opportunities to “rebirth” the service in the future.

There are a number of areas that should be of real concern here.

POLICY RUSH

There are elements in the Council’s process of “policy rush”.  A new policy is decided and suddenly it’s the only show in town.  We now need to support people after they get a job and not train them first.  So that will be the only thing going.

The problem is the people who lose out will be those furthest from the job market, those with little experience and skill who need help.

Other policies such as the Scottish Government’s college reforms that led to end of many part time college places for people with learning disabilities who used the short  courses to learn important skills.

CHERRY PICKING

The new payment by results policy will put pressure on the all the new organisations to get more people into work.  30% of the funding will be linked to the number who get jobs.  There will be a real pressure to achieve success at the expense of those with greatest needs.

GIVE BACK

This new way of funding services means that organisations who want to win have to put in a competitive bid.  GIVE BACK is a term has sprung up for how this works.  The organisation works out what they could do for the money and then decides how much to GIVE BACK to the council and then reduces their service by 5-10%.  Organisations quite rightly reason better to have a reduced service than none but this means that the service is reduced in scope and intensity.

LACK OF CHOICE

Self Directed Support is meant to mean choice but tendered contracts means that people can only get these services the council approve.  While the Engine Shed remains popular with those who use it, it is strange to see this unique and valued service vanishing by neglect.

The questions we will have to face in the future are

  • how much choice do people with learning disabilities really have if there is only one model of support for them and
  • how many other services that people rely on are also suffering from this gradual restriction on council funding?

A Record of Efforts to Save The Engine Shed

Created on 09 October 2014

A Statement by the Engine Shed

Over the last year at the Engine Shed has tried to work with Edinburgh Council to resolve our difficulties.

This includes:

  •        Receiving a further years transition funding of £211,000 until April 2015 to allow time to develop new opportunities;
  •         Meeting and working  with Business Gateway to develop new ways of workings;
  •         Working with a Community Enterprise Consultant funded by the Just Enterprise scheme operated by Business Gateway.
  •         Spending 4 months in an ultimately unsuccessful negotiations with the “Preferred Consortium” to secure a place in a joint tender that recognised the Engine Shed’s unique contribution to support young adults in learning employments skills.
  •        A willingness to explore new option for individuals including self-directed support.
  •        Exploring way of applying to the Challenge Fund and other Third Party Grants programme available through the Edinburgh City Council;
  •        Exploring ways of applying for future European Social Funds (subject to first having a grant suitable for matching) from April 2015.
  •        From April to June, the CEO and directors taking part in a series of three meetings  with senior council staff and councillors to explore funding opportunities.

The Engine Shed remains keen to find new ways to work with Edinburgh City Council  on future developments.   The new Scottish Government report ‘Education Working for All’ clearly sets out the recommendations for creating employment pathways from school to work and how these can be achieved, with an emphasis on work based work experience and new apprenticeships.  This offers exciting possibilities that we are keen to explore.

No matter what happens with these and other discussions, the Engine Shed Board are seeking new ways of providing vital support for young people with learning disabilities from all across Lothian to gain the skills they need for of a life time of work.

 

The Closure Of The Engine Shed

Created on 3 September 2014

It is with some sadness that we have to announce the closure of the Engine Shed in Edinburgh.  Below is a statement from Marian MacDonald, CEO going into more detail on this matter.  Last year thousands of people signed petitions and protested against the threats to the closure and we were able to win a year’s reprieve for the service.  However the policy of the council did not change and it continued to pursue a single approach to helping people with learning disabilities into work.

This made it impossible to secure continuing funding from this council department for a service like the Engine Shed which focuses on providing a more complicated pattern of training opportunities, work placements and job hunting.    In addition the Engine Shed’s ability to manage was getting more difficult following several years of the restricted funding from the council.  The Engine Shed was getting less money last year than they did 10 years previously.

As far as we are aware at no point in the last year has anyone from the council said that they didn’t want the Engine Shed but it has suffered from not fitting into the new priorities that the council has been promoting.  Given that we are moving into the world of choice, Self Directed Support, where people who get services can choose what they want to do with their support, it is strange to see this unique and valued service vanishing by neglect while it remains popular with those who use it.

The questions we will have to face in the future are

  •  how much choice do people with learning disabilities really have if there is only one model of support for them and
  •  how many other services that people rely on are also suffering from this gradual restriction on council funding?

ENGINE SHED STATEMENT

Background

You will be aware that over the past two years the Engine shed had been responding to the challenge brought about by the review undertaken by the City of Edinburgh Council (CEC) of their funding strategy for specialist employability service in Edinburgh.

These employability services to date have been delivered by six providers in Edinburgh, the Engine Shed being one of these.   A consultation took place towards the end of 2012/ early 2013, with a report published  recommending that CEC move to a commissioned service under one contract from April 2015 and this was endorsed by the Economic  Development Committee in September  last year.  This new funded service is to be based on a ‘supported employment ‘model i.e. where individuals are placed in work and then supported. As you know, The Engine Shed provides the route into employment through offering a training programme that links into employer placements and finally paid employment, a model that has a well-documented success rate for people with learning disabilities over  twenty five  years.

 What this means for the Engine Shed

The Engine Shed will no longer receive funding for its training provision post March 2015 with the resultant loss of approximately forty percent of our income.  In reality, funding received from CEC, has decreased in value over the years due to a combination of budget cuts and stand still budgets and in fact we receive less now than we did ten years ago.  Alongside a steady decline in income through CEC, we have also had to face the fact that our income generated from the sale of our products has not grown at a level anticipated in our business plan.

After much deliberation therefore, we have had to come to the regrettable decision that it is not feasible to continue our current operations because of lack of financial viability. This will mean that we will now plan how to wind down the current operations, which will in reality mean the closing down of the Engine Shed, over the next six months. Clearly, alongside this, we would like to explore the possibilities of developing a new approach to continue our work of supporting individuals with learning disabilities successfully access paid work in the future but this will be a separate piece of work and it will take time to examine the feasibility of a new venture.  We would very much like to put the experience we have accumulated over the past twenty five years to good use!

Over the coming months we will work closely with all our current trainees and families to support them with future plans to ensure that they have access to the best possible future option available to them.

We appreciate the dedication of our staff and also the loyalty of all our stakeholders e.g. customers, employers, funders ( currently City of Edinburgh Council, Big Lottery, Robertson Trust ) and trainees and their families in working together over the years to make the Engine Shed such a successful and inspirational organisation. We know that we can count on your continued support to face the challenges ahead.

Marian Macdonald, CEO

August 2014

 

An extra year’s breathing space for the Engine Shed and other projects

Created on 17 September 2013

On Tuesday 17th September the City of Edinburgh Council looked at the Employability and Skills Disability review.  This is the report that originally put at jeopardy the future of the Engine Shed and raised the prospect of competitive tendering of supported employment in the city.  It has been updated and you can read it here

The Learning Disability Alliance Scotland took a deputation along to put the case for the Engine Shed and the Real Jobs project.  Sue McLernon explained what a difference the project had made to her daughter.  Chris Johnstone, a trainee at the Engine Shed also was in the deputation.  We made the points that while we have heard from Councillors and Council Staff over the summer that there had been no intention to shut the Engine Shed and the that the council wanted to work cooperatively over future developments,  we were not sure that all the things that we have heard are reflected in the report.

Our deputation also spoke about how the Real Jobs Project service users had told us how they wanted to keep their service in place too.  How they valued their choice but also how they had been turned down for Direct Payments when they applied.

Over 14,000 people signed petitions wanting to keep the Engine Shed,  thousands emailing the council and hundreds visiting their councillors,  none of these comments got  into the report. You would have no idea that many people need other ways of getting support than the “place and train” model.  Nor is the fact that despite its own strategy, the  Scottish Government has just made its biggest investment in supported employment for ten years and it wasn’t in “place, train and support in ordinary jobs” but in the Project Search internship model.

We asked some questions that we hoped would be answered when the report was discussed.

  1. How will the different agencies be involved in the discussion over the future of “third party” funding?
  2. What discussions will there be over the future positioning of services such as the Engine Shed within a more appropriate Council department?
  3. Many clients of these supported employment agencies receive support as part of an assessed care package and are entitled to ask for a Direct Payment to buy their choice of service, yet all of those who have asked have been turned away.  Will the Council be reviewing this decision following the implementation of SDS Act?
  4. How does the move to a single agency providing supported employment empower service users to exercise choice of employment service, choice of employment support and choice of employment model?

Mostly they were not answered.  The following is a summary of the Councillors discussion.

The report was introduced by a council employee who really read out the main points. We’ll not repeat these here but he did make a couple of particular points.

“The council recognise there is a need to take account of transition for some services– that is why the council is attuned to the 3rd party review which should report in December.  Then there will be time to give organisation to adapt.  There should be roll over of grants for a year to allow organisation to get ready for change in the future.   Going forward the council wants to strengthen service users in the design of future proposals and are open as to how that happens. “

Cllr Gavin Corbett – Nothing in report says that current agencies are not bad providers.  Given that, there should be space to allow agencies to maintain their networks and contacts.  What will you do to encourage partnerships?

Response  –  The whole review was collaborative.  There was a lot of input into the report from providers and users.  We pride ourselves in having a good relationship with providers and are alert to potential change.  We recognise that – Allowed access to Just Enterprise –to help organisations develop – this is an existing 3rd party interface.   We are looking forward to the new stage.

Cllr Gavin Corbett – The different models of supported employment are not exclusive.  How have you looked at Hybrid models?

Response  –  The supported employment model is not fixed in time.  It works on people needs.   Its not the models that are important but the outcomes from this.

Cllr Steve Cardownie – Has the possible unintended consequences taken place?

Response  –  We don’t want to see organisations disappear.  We have constant dialogue to help them keep trading.  The problem with Intowork is with ESF funding. We have helped to support this type of problem in the past but we have limitations to what we can do.

Cllr Paul Edie – What do you mean by retained employment?

Response  –  When someone is in work, this is about help to keep people get jobs in work.

Cllr Paul Edie – I have been looking for work – it took me 6 months to get a job  and I have a good CV.  Shouldn’t it take longer to analyse the results so that we get a better view of how these organisations work rather than use such a narrow definition of just how many people got jobs.

Response  –  We don’t have good data as we have just started collecting this. It is just a snapshot.

Cllr Paul Edie – I really feel we need some more sensitive data than just counting how many people are getting jobs.  These are people who struggle into work and it cannot just be “in job” figures.   On another point what is the timetable?  How are the services that are being currently provided being procured?

Response – A Consortium approach is important.  We are looking at proposals coming forward to talk about how we can meet the needs of the different groups. In Edinburgh council we like to encourage consortiums.   Whether and when we go to tender is very likely to depend on a number of circumstances that are hard to predict at this point.  If pushed, we are thinking about going out to tender again in the middle of 2014.  But the decision to tender and procure is part of the wider discussion about how the council procures its services.

Cllr Gordon Monro – do we have capacity to really grasp the scale of the problem and how we best focus on the scale of the problem.

We have been looking at best practice and we work closely with other parts of the council to promote employment of people with disabilities.  We want to know how we link to the other parts of the polices that the council have to operate to such as Self Directed Support.

The report was not put to a vote but  was approved subject to an amendment putting something in recommendation 5 about “roll over funding being subject to budget approval.”