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The voice of Scotland’s vibrant voluntary sector

Published by Scottish Council for Voluntary Organisations

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Edinburgh social enterprise closes its doors forever

This news post is over 6 years old

It was once one of Scotland's most successful social enterprises, but the Engine Shed has now decided to permanently close

One of Scotland’s best known supported employment social enterprises is permanently closing after failing to revive its operation after losing council funding.

Edinburgh’s The Engine Shed, which closed its training and trading operation in St Leonards in March 2015, had been hoping to reopen as a café offering supported employment services to people with learning disabilities in the city. However, its former chief executive Marian MacDonald has now conceded defeat and announced the operation is to close permanently.

Very reluctantly, the decision has been taken to cease this process and close down the organisation at the end of next month - Marian MacDonald

For 25 years, the Engine Shed provided a training ground for young people with learning disabilities that acted as a transition between school and permanent employment.

Young people were trained in cooking and catering and it ran a café, bakery and tofu making business.

However, after City of Edinburgh Council decided to change the type of supported employment it funded in 2015, the business lost 40% of its funding and was unable to continue. It closed its premises in March 2015 despite over 6000 signatures on a petition to keep it open.

In a letter to key stakeholders, MacDonald has said she has now given up hope of reviving the once thriving enterprise.

“As an initial step, the plan was to look into setting up a café to relaunch operations and re-establish our public presence in Edinburgh. From this base we could then look to develop further new employability services operating within the commercial realities of running a social business,” she wrote.

“We looked at many options which involved actively searching for suitable property that would match our requirements. Alongside this groups and individuals also shared their ideas, possibilities and offers of support with us which we also followed up.

"All in all it has been a busy and interesting time but also one where we have had our fair share of disappointments and frustrations particularly at times when things that seemed to be coming together well unfortunately didn’t at the end of the day.”

“Sadly, due to the fact that we have not successfully managed to secure a venue, we have come to the point where, very reluctantly, the decision has been taken to cease this process and close down the organisation at the end of next month.”

MacDonald, however, is adamant that The Engine Shed was a successful model for supporting people with learning disabilities into work. Scotland still has a very poor record in employment for people with learning disabilities. In 2014, just 6.7% of all adults with learning disabilities had a job.

MacDonald has also been working on a research project, which collates the work of the organisation over the past 25 years, and she says will provide a lasting record of how young people with learning disabilities experienced their transition through the training programme, developing their confidence and skills to move into permanent employment.



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Jill Mordaunt
over 6 years ago
Sorry to read this Marion. You did a great job over all the years.
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tea in the pot
over 6 years ago
this is sad sad news we have known about your project for a few years and the great work that you did
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Maureen Hope
over 6 years ago
Really tragic that this has happened. The Engine Shed truly changed lives and it's just so sad that Edinburgh has now lost this service. Well done though to Marian and all her former colleagues for their efforts and hard work.