Thursday, 10 February 2011

200+ year enterprise set to close

Blindcraft is a social enterprise with noble roots going back 217 years.  The mainstay of its business is the making of beds.

Today the Council finally took the decision to embark on the statutory 30 day consultation with a view to closure.  

In the last 10 years the organisation has been a huge loss maker and repeated efforts to turn it into a successful organisation have failed.  Over recent years it has been dogged with fierce competition to its core business, inefficiency issues, poor industrial relations, along with some ill fated attempts to diversify (one such was windows).  Significant efforts were made to streamline the business and improve the management - but none of these had the desired effect of putting the organisation on a viable footing.

The business had been slimmed down to 53 employees, only a proportion of whom had a debility.  The rather absurd situation had been reached that, in order to maintain the organisation, the council was subsidising Blindcraft by an amount significantly over £30,000 per annum for each person with a debility.

Efforts to save Blindcraft have been long drawn out and extensive and I know there has been a huge investment of Council energy and resources to keep the organisation running .  All but 4 of the employees were members of three unions involved.  An earlier move (November) to save the organisation by exploring the possibility of moving to a 3 day week was stymied when a union ballot of the employees met with over 30 of the workforce voting against this possible rescue route.

There have been accusations that the Council had not done enough to save the enterprise.  The reality is that neither the previous (Labour) administration nor the current council had been able to make realistic headway against a clutch of adverse circumstances described above. 

Considering the subsidy of £30,000 per person per annum could have provided very significant services to those involved - and others in need of support, the situation was becoming surreal.

It seems likely that employment protection legislation (TUPE) would have deterred potential white knights from rescuing the business and statutory redundancy payments are likely to we welcomed by some of the workforce.

NB Blindcraft operates from premises in Peffer Place just outside the Southside & Newington ward.


caroline said...

what is debility

Cameron Rose said...

Disability, infirmity of some sort.

Anonymous said...

Rather an odd choice of word, don't you think? I've never seen it used in this fashion before, and I would say that it has somewhat negative connotations. I'm curious as to why you chose it?

I'm disabled myself, including a visual impairment, and I take an interest in disability politics as well as language. I'd say that the usual terms in this situation would be "with a disability", "partially sighted" or "visually impaired".

Nit-picking over terminology aside, I'm astonished to hear that the council has been putting so much money into Blindcraft. Considering that most people with disabilities are living in poverty, and that the council cannot afford to provide many severely disabled people with essential care services, it does seem an uneven allocation of funds. £30k per year per person is a huge amount, considering the number of people with disabilities in Edinburgh who are literally living off a tenth of that. I'm sorry to see any disability-oriented business go under, but I'd rather see the greater number of people with disabilities safe and receiving appropriate levels of care in their homes when they need it.

Cameron Rose said...

Fair comment on my use of words - although I have seen the one I used employed by others.

As to Blindcraft, those who shout loudest often give a skewed perspective - which doesn't always give a balanced picture - which it why I took a few minutes to lay these facts out for my readers.

Anonymous said...

Could I ask what you feel the government should be doing for people with disabilities?

Cameron Rose said...

Just remember I'm a councillor. I have opinions but that is not my area of particular expertise. Without investing some time in thinking through the issues, the answer to your question is that I don't know!

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