Boost to social enterprise

Gippsland’s disadvantaged and disabled workers will be among a group of people to benefit from the State Government’s $5 million Social Enterprise Strategy announced in Morwell on Friday.

In an Australian first, the social enterprises sector and the state will strengthen their partnership to increase job growth, drive productivity and encourage workforce participation for those who face limited employment prospects.

State Member for Eastern Victoria Harriet Shing said the strategy would have enormous social and economic impacts on the region, citing a boost in job numbers and employment support.

“For Gippsland we have around 200 social enterprises and they provide employment to disadvantaged and disabled workers across a variety of sectors and industries,” Ms Shing said.

“We will see for the very first time a coordinated approach to make sure we’re gathering the right information, that enterprises like Latrobe Valley Enterprises in Morwell have the right support they need to grow, that they can also access procurement opportunities with government support and take a greater market share for themselves.”

The strategy will focus on three key areas including increased impacts and innovation surrounding the value of social enterprises, building on business capacity and skills and improving market access to boost employment opportunities.

Latrobe Valley Enterprises chief executive Guy Webb said the announcement could result in an employment increase across the sector.

The Morwell-based company provides employment opportunities for people disadvantaged by disability.

“If we get a better access to government contracts then it will benefit the whole region by providing more direct employment opportunities and the opportunity to expand and provide more jobs,” Mr Webb said.

“From a self-esteem point of view, it means a lot to them because people are judged on what they do and if they don’t already have a part-time or full-time job, people find it hard to get work.

“For people who have a disability it puts them in the same spread and the same status as everybody else that’s around.”

Ms Shing said she would set her focus on some of Gippsland’s 200 social enterprises to ensure they would receive a tangible benefit from the announcement.

“We need to make sure that workers in social enterprises have as many opportunities and support to develop skills as much as possible and that their value of work is recognised through good business practices in Gippsland.

“What they gain from that is self respect, dignity, participation in the community as well as gaining really important skills and training that enable them to participate and also earn good money.”