Social Firms

What is a social firm? A social firm is a not-for-profit business with a purpose to create accessible employment for people facing barriers to work as a result of mental illness or disability.

A social firm has a supportive work environment that:

  • employs between 25% and 50% of employees with a disability.
  • pays all workers at award/ productivity-based rates.
  • provides the same work opportunities, rights and obligations to all employees.
  • generates the majority of its income through the commercial activity of the business.
  • any modifications required for the employee in need of support are built into the design of the workplace.

The social firm model originated in Italy in the 1960s and is one type of social enterprise. A social enterprise is a business that trades for a social purpose.

Our Social Firms


Cleanable is a successful cleaning business by Westgate Community Initiatives Group Inc (WCIG). Cleanable was established in 2005 with support from SoFA and Social Ventures Australia. Cleanable operates across Melbourne and provides employment and training to many people with a mental illness. 

Futures Maintenance

Finding Futures purchased a maintenance business in Ballarat in early 2011 and with support from SoFA are developing it into a social firm providing employment for people with a mental illness and/or disability. 

Incito Maintenance

Incito Maintenance is a property maintenance social firm launched in July 2010. This social firm operates as a stand alone business unit within the broader WISE Employment structure. Incito Maintenance also has a proactive relationship with a social housing provider, offering employment opportunities to tenants looking for work.

Outlook Environmental

Outlook Environmental operates 3 waste transfer stations in Darebin, Knox and Hampton Park on the social firm principles. These are commercially viable and integrated workplaces that also achieve significant environmental outcomes.

Salvage and Save

Salvage & Save is a business initiative of Finding Workable Solutions Inc (FWS). Donated or salvaged goods are recycled and sold back into the community, by way of a low cost retail shop. SoFA has supported these social enterprises at Elizabeth and Heathfield and they now run as social firms.


Test-IT is a software testing social firm is based on the highly successful Specialisterne in Denmark and the development has been a partenrship between SoFA, Infoxchange and Alpha Autism. Infoxchange commended operations of the Test-IT in mid 2011 and will be employing a number of people with Aspergers Syndrome.

The Mission Caters (TMC)

Prahan Mission with the support of SoFA has developed several social firms in 2010 and 2011 including:

  • Three retail outlets (Prahran, Richmond and Dandenong),
  • The Mission Caters (TMC) a hospitality social firm operating as a catering business and a cafe
  • Hartley's Cafe which caters to staff, clients and friends of Prahran Mission.

The National Network of e-Waste Social Firms

The National Network of e-Waste Social Firmsis a partnership between SoFA  and four Australian Disability Enterprises. The four social firms will provide a statewide solution to the recycling of e-waste as well as ongoing employment for people with disabilities and/or mental illness.

Lets get to work: A National Mental Health Employment Strategy for Australia recommends that the Social Firms models are a mandated part of the labour market, and are actively supported by governments at all levels.
"I never thought I could work. I always though I would be sick and at hospital and living with mum and dad. Now I have even done a training certificate. I see my friends and we talk about work and clothes and what the stars are doing – you know? We don’t talk about being sick."
Narelle, social firm employee
Work and mental health are closely linked. In Western society a person’s identity and self esteem, as well as the respect they are afforded by others, is partly determined by the work they do.
The Australasian Faculty of Occupational and Environmental M

Social Firms Australia ltd
ABN: 90 110 698 489

10/49 Smith St Fitzroy Vic 3065
P: 03 9445 0373 F: 03 9445 0375