Landmark trial underway to explore alternative employment support services for people living with a disability

Wbe Pbo

A landmark $3.8M trial has commenced exploring the effectiveness of jobs-focused social enterprises in delivering long-term employment outcomes for people living with a disability.

White Box Enterprises, in partnership with the Department of Social Services, will deliver the three-year trial that will see social enterprises paid directly by the Australian Government for their verified employment outcomes through an innovative payment by outcomes model.

The trial announcement comes after Social Services Minister Rishworth’s announcement in August to overhaul the Disability Employment Services (DES) program, with more than half of the 104 DES providers nationally being notified that some or all of their services will end due to poor performance.

Social Services Minister Amanda Rishworth said people living with disability who wanted to work deserved every opportunity to do so.

“This trial will help us explore the best way to support people living with disability and who want to work into long-term, sustainable employment.” Minister Rishworth said.

Luke Terry, CEO of White Box Enterprises, who has long-advocated for the role of social enterprise in inclusive, dignified work said, “This trial is a milestone moment for jobs-focused social enterprises, and for the communities we support.”

“We know through our years of experience, people who face barriers to employment, including those living with a disability, need tailored and consistent on-the-job support to succeed at work,” said Mr Terry. “This trial recognises the importance of that support.”

Over the next nine months, up to 170 people living with a disability will be supported into award wage employment with one of nine jobs-focused social enterprises selected to participate in the trial.

As each person achieves milestones in their employment, the social enterprise employing and supporting them will receive outcomes-based payments at 6, 12 and 18 months, as well as additional payments when an employee chooses to transition to another employer.

The payments will cover the costs of the wrap-around supports these businesses provide people living with a disability such as workplace capacity building, flexible work environments, social support structures, and career support.

In the recent Department of Social Services consultation report for the new National Disability Employment Model, one of the key issues raised with DES providers was the need for holistic, wrap-around services and complementary supports for people with disability and employers1.

“It’s great to see the Australian Government looking to businesses, like jobs-focused social enterprises, who are providing these wrap-around services, and who have a proven track record of delivering job outcomes. We’re here to help solve the issue of high unemployment amongst people living with a disability.”

Almost 2.1 million people living with disability are of working age in Australia. However, 93 per cent of unemployed people aged 15-64 with disability experience difficulties in finding employment. The unemployment rate for people living with disability is more than double that of working age Australians.

“We want to close the gap in disability unemployment,” Minister Rishworth said.

“We look forward to seeing the role jobs-focused social enterprises can play, alongside the strong disability employment services system we’re creating.”

Green Collect, a circular economy business participating in the trial, has been providing jobs and training opportunities for disadvantaged Australians for 16 years in Melbourne’s west. Sally Quinn, co-founder and CEO says the trial has the potential to be a game-changer for the sector and the people they support.

“We recognise the huge potential of the PBO trial in demonstrating the skilled and compassionate ways that social enterprises work with people to achieve purposeful and secure employment.” said Ms Quinn.

“This trial provides a very real opportunity to shape new approaches that build on people’s strengths, skills, passions and all of the benefits of positive employment.”

Independent research shows that social enterprise delivers better long-term employment outcomes than some existing mainstream employment services, along with improved wellbeing and greater financial and social stability. If successful, this trial will provide the first set of Commonwealth government data that demonstrates the effectiveness of jobs-focused social enterprises, paving the way for these organisations to access long-term funding to support people facing barriers to work.

“We’re confident this trial will validate the work we do, and we’ll soon see jobs-focused social enterprises operating alongside Workforce Australia (formerly jobactive) and Disability Employment Services as an alternative option for people living with a disability,” said Mr Terry.

This is the third Payment By Outcomes (PBO) trial launched under the Australian Government’s Social Impact Investing Initiatives, however the first involving social enterprises and impact investors.

Macquarie Group Foundation, Tripple and Hand Heart Pocket Foundation have invested a combined total of $750,000 to fund the upfront costs and provide working capital to get the trial underway. Investor repayments and returns are funded solely through outcomes achieved.

“Bringing a stream of private investment into this trial serves a dual purpose. Beyond the financial support, we have a chance to demonstrate to the impact investment community the effectiveness of jobs-focused social enterprise, which we hope will lead to more opportunities in the future.” said Mr Terry.

For more information on the PBO trial and the participating social enterprises visit


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