Laundry more than clean sheets
Australian company Vanguard Laundry delivers much more than clean sheets. It produces “purpose” and “pride”, says founder Luke Terry. Launched in 2017, Vanguard’s mission is to help people with lived experience of mental illness find employment. Today, the social enterprise has enabled 140 people to enter the workforce. The effect on those people, says Terry, has been profound. “When someone gets a job, everything changes: the amount of time they spent in hospital changes, smoking rates drop, the reliance on government decreases, but most importantly, the indicators around their purpose and meaning in life and mental health and wellbeing, greatly increase.”
As well as job opportunities, Vanguard provides an in-house career development centre that offers training and career advice. Inspired by his own mental health history, Terry hopes to help create an employment landscape “where no one is left behind”. “I strongly believe we can create a world, starting in Australia, where if you want to work and you have a willingness to really work hard to develop a career, then there is an employment place for you,” he says.
Laura O’Reilly is in full agreement. Under the umbrella Fighting Chance, O’Reilly has launched Jigsaw, a not-for-profit business providing tailored support to help people with disabilities prepare for and attain employment. “There are hundreds of thousands of people in Australia with mild or moderate disability — such as hearing or vision impairment, or autism, who are incredibly capable, intelligent, and have so much to give to the economy; but because of their disability, it’s really hard to find work,” says O’Reilly.
When it comes to supporting people with a disability to get a job, the statistics are disappointing. Only 53% of people with a disability in Australia are employed, compared with 83% of the general population. In an effort to break down the barriers, Jigsaw provides its services to 80 corporate and government clients. So far, Jigsaw has trained and employed more than 150 people with a disability and supported a further 20 to transition to mainstream employment. “We could spend a lot of time trying to persuade people to employ people with a disability, or we could just get on with employing them, and change attitudes through doing,” O’Reilly says. “That’s the power of what social enterprise offers.”