Margaret was depressed, jobless, broke and behind on her rent when the single mother of two heard about Vanguard Laundry Services, in Toowoomba, Queensland.
“I was desperate for work, any work,” she recalls. She started working at the laundry the day before she was due to be evicted.
Given her situation, Margaret was lucky to hear about Vanguard. The laundry is a social enterprise established specifically to provide jobs to people with mental illness. The factors Margaret felt had been barriers to jobs at other businesses – such as her age, gender and health – were no impediment to her employment.
Employers generally tend to be far less accepting and understanding. According to Australian Bureau of Statistics data, 34% of unemployed women and 26% of unemployed men are dealing with mental illness. It makes it harder for them get and hold down a job. Being unemployed also tends to harm mental health, so it’s a Catch-22.
The Productivity Commission’s draft report into mental health – which puts the economic cost of mental illness at A$180 billion a year – notes “particularly strong links between employment and mental health” and the importance of increasing job opportunities.
- ^ Australian Bureau of Statistics (www.abs.gov.au)
- ^ harm mental health (www.sciencedirect.com)
- ^ People with a mental illness discriminated against when looking for work and when employed (theconversation.com)
- ^ draft report into mental health (www.pc.gov.au)
- ^ Productivity Commission (www.pc.gov.au)
- ^ Vanguard Laundry Services (www.vanguardlaundryservices.com.au)
- ^ less than a third (docs.jobs.gov.au)
- ^ to a Senate Committee inquiry (www.aph.gov.au)
- ^ perverse financial incentives (www.aph.gov.au)
- ^ $6,500 over six months (jobsearch.gov.au)
- ^ than other employment interventions (doi.org)
- ^ can be worse than unemployment (oem.bmj.com)
- ^ create public or community benefit (mapforimpact.com.au)
- ^ meaningful employment opportunities (www.csi.edu.au)
- ^ Vanguard’s social impacts (www.amp.com.au)
- ^ How social enterprises are building a more inclusive Australian economy (theconversation.com)
Authors: Aurora Elmes, PhD Candidate, Swinburne University of Technology