A major barrier to employment for people with mental illness is limited access to supportive and non-discriminatory workplaces. Social firms are businesses committed to employing up to 50% of people with a disability or other disadvantage and to providing supportive work environments that benefit workers. Little research has been conducted to understand the features and social processes that support the vocational experiences of employees with mental health issues in social firms.
This ethnographic study sought to explore the experiences of nine employees at one Australian social firm.
Nine employees of a social firm, with and without mental illness.
Study methods used included participant observation, interviewing and document analysis.
Results and conclusions
The study highlights the complexity of running a socially-invested business, and the importance of cross-sectoral partnerships to support their operational success. Natural workplace supports, adequate training and support infrastructure and enabling participation in the business, were identified as important to creating a supportive workplace. Partnerships within the workplace and in support of the workplace are discussed. Future growth and development of partnerships are recommended to support the establishment of social firms.