Six months before Shane died, his siblings set up a social enterprise with the goal of building businesses that create opportunities for people with a disability. The goal was that people like their brother, who had never had the opportunity of having a part-time job as a teen, would be able to bridge the gap between school and employment.
They created a social enterprise called Jigsaw, a document and data management business that now provides services to over 100 corporate and government clients, including law firms, mining companies, local councils and financial service companies like Westpac.
“We harness our bustling workplace to create three supports: [on-the-job] training, support and transition to mainstream employment,” Laura says.
Last year, the Westpac Foundation, together with The Bryan Foundation and MinterEllison, jointly invested $600,000 in Jigsaw, as part of a collaborative funding model that aims to create more jobs for vulnerable Australians.
“We know that everyone has difficulty getting a job if they’ve never had one, so providing that first entry-level job for a year, paid at award, gets them started,” says Laura.
After two years piloting and testing the model, the siblings found many of those approaching them for work after having limited luck on their own were people with high-functioning autism.
“We win work on the basis of the quality of the work of our employees. Our accuracy is off the charts because we are leveraging the superpowers of our workforce,” Laura says.
Centre for Social Impact Swinburne director Jo Barraket says that in Australian workplaces people with a disability often experience direct or indirect discrimination when accessing or holding onto a job.
“Employment participation rates of people with disability in Australia lag behind many other OECD countries … [despite the fact that] there are a great many studies that show that people with disability are highly reliable, take fewer sick days and tend to stay longer with their employers than people without disability,” Barraket says.
“In this day and age, it should be a standard part of workplace culture, but we are not there yet. About 20 per cent of Australians have a disability – it is economically and socially detrimental not to recognise our value in the workforce,” Barraket says.