Social enterprises start strong in PBO Trial

The first Federal Government Payment by Outcomes (PBO) Trial for social enterprise is underway, with initial data demonstrating the strength of social enterprise in attracting and retaining long-term unemployed jobseekers in meaningful award wage work.

Since the Trial commenced in July 2022, 70 people living with a disability, who had previously been out of work for at least nine months during the past year, are now employed and earning a full award wage at one of 15 participating social enterprises. Despite the challenges that present when entering work after lengthy breaks, employment retention is at 93 per cent.

According to Angharad Lubbock, Head of Programs and PBO Trial Lead for White Box Enterprises, “We know, and were reminded at the Jobs Summit in 2022, that there are persistently high numbers of people with different abilities who are finding it difficult to access work. While in its early stages, this Trial is proving that jobs-focused social enterprises create tremendously positive work experiences and are part of the solution to helping close this gap.”

“The collaboration amongst social enterprises employing the participants has exceeded all expectations and we are on solid ground to achieve the ambitious targets set for the Trial.” said Ms Lubbock.

Key outcomes of Trial so far:

  • 70 participants as at 9 February, equating to 50% of required enrolments.
  • 93% retention rate for participants.
  • The average fortnightly income is $767.14. All participants are paid full award wages with funded support for career progression and growth.
  • The trial is now open to 16 – 59-year-olds (previously 18-50).
  • Evidence of unemployment history has expanded beyond core welfare payments to now also recognise Youth Allowance (Jobseeker), Parenting Payments, Carer Payments, and incarceration as relevant.
  • Six additional social enterprises are approved to participate in the trial. These include Fruit2Work, Ability Works, Ability Enterprises, Hotel Etico, WISE Employment (Clean Force) and SevGen.

The high retention rates of social enterprises are underpinned by dedicated wrap-around supports tailored to employees’ needs and goals. These supports include workplace capacity building, flexible work environments, training and development, and career mentoring.

As participants reach employment milestones at six, 12 and 18 months, social enterprises receive outcome-based payments to help fund these supports.

“We’ve seen two participants already achieve a milestone under the Trial, earning above a minimum wage that supports independent living for six months. We expect to see milestones like this being achieved steadily over coming months.”

“Two participants have also chosen to transition to other workplaces which means other employers can look to social enterprise as a partner in inclusive work.” said Ms Lubbock.

23-year-old Luke joined ReBuild six months ago and is a participant in the Trial. He has not experienced the same level of care and support ReBuild offers, in any previous roles, “There is no comparison between my last job and this job.”

“When it comes to work, the inclusiveness of the ReBuild staff, the care that goes into everything, looking after each individual crew member, and the work itself. It’s just not comparable.” Luke said.

White Box Enterprises, the Department of Social Services and Services Australia have been agile in their approach to making the Trial more inclusive, with positive changes made to the eligibility criteria early on.

“In addition to data from social enterprises, Services Australia also proactively identified some opportunities to expand the eligibility criteria, allowing for more women, refugees and a wider age group to participate in the trial.” said Angharad.

CSI Swinburne engaged for independent evaluation

The Centre for Social Impact Swinburne has also been engaged to undertake a full evaluation of the trial over the three-year period to measure not only the impact of employment on the participants, but also the impact of the trial for participating social enterprises, impact investors and White Box as the lead intermediary.

“CSI Swinburne’s independent evaluation is an important addition to the PBO Trial, made possible through the support of Macquarie Group Foundation. On top of the strong dataset we’ll already have, CSI’s work will provide rich qualitative data that looks more closely at social outcomes and wellbeing of participants.” said Angharad.

This landmark three-year trial is the first of its kind for jobs-focused social enterprise, and the third (PBO) trial under the Australian Government’s Social Impact Investing Initiatives. Designed in partnership between the Department of Social Services and White Box Enterprises, it aims to measure the effectiveness of social enterprises in creating long term employment outcomes for people living with a disability.

“There is a strong sense of collaboration from all parties involved, from Department of Social Services and the participating social enterprises, through to our impact investors – Macquarie Group Foundation, Tripple and Hand Heart Pocket. Everyone has a genuine interest and commitment to maximising Trial outcomes, learnings and a pathway for future expansion.” said Angharad.

To find out more, visit the Payment By Outcomes Trial page on our site, also take the time to read more about Luke and his experience at ReBuild.