Social enterprise providing employment through cleaning

To commemorate International Day of People with Disabilities, INCLEAN speaks to an Australian social enterprise providing employment opportunities for people with mental illness through cleaning.

Clean Force Property Services is an Australian social enterprise providing sustainable award-wage employment opportunities for people with psychosocial disabilities.

Based in Melbourne, the business was founded by Jim Dinuccio and Paul Fraser in 2001, with the aim of employing people with psychosocial disability – a disability that may arise from mental health issues.

Psychosocial disability is an internationally recognised term under the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, used to describe the experience of people with impairments and participation restrictions related to mental health conditions.

These impairments can include a loss of ability to function, think clearly, experience full physical health, and manage the social and emotional aspects of their lives.

“In the beginning, we wanted to create a cleaning business that provided a genuine workplace, award-based wages and conditions for people with psychosocial disability,” Clean Force manager Paul Fraser told INCLEAN.

“There are many disability employment enterprises around Australia, but we wanted to create a more innovative one. While we exclusively employed people with psychosocial disability, we also planned to hire people without disabilities to support the business as we grew.”

Today, Clean Force employs a blended workforce with approximately 50 per cent of employees diagnosed with a disability and 19 per cent of employees from culturally and linguistically diverse backgrounds.

“We also work with people who may be disadvantaged and face barriers to employment, such as the long-term unemployed and refugees.”

Clean Force provides commercial cleaning services for offices, apartment complexes, entertainment venues, factories and vacated residences in Sydney and Melbourne. Its current customer base includes large corporate, government and medium-sized businesses.

Clients include Telstra; Brotherhood of St Laurence; Broad Spectrum; NSW Health, and construction companies such as John Holland and Laing O’Rourke. One of the markets the company is working toward securing contracts in Melbourne is local and state government.

“This has been a bit difficult, but the marketplace is changing as social enterprises such as Clean Force become more recognised, and we are getting much closer to achieving this goal.”

In 2006, Clean Force merged with WISE Employment, a not-for-profit employment services provider with offices in NSW, Victoria, Queensland, Tasmania, SA and the Northern Territory.

In 2015, the business opened an office in Sydney, which currently employs 15 staff. Clean Force employs 120 staff in Melbourne.

“We wanted to provide the same opportunities in Melbourne to people in Sydney. We do have plans and dreams to expand into other states, but we don’t have a set timeline for that.”

On 3 December, Clean Force will celebrate International Day of People with Disabilities (IDPwD), a recognised day for the celebration of the achievements of people living with disabilities across the world.

“We celebrate [IDPwD] every year. What we’ve found is regardless of disability, people have ability and given an opportunity to work they are driven to do their very best. It’s inspiring to see people who are challenged to push through those challenges to reach their optimum.

“Every person in Australia deserves an opportunity to work and to share in the benefits that work brings. Some people who want to work may need more help to break into that market and maintain jobs, but they still deserve to participate in all of the great things this country has to offer.”

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