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.

"I have been working in the social firm for 2 years and because I am getting money my life has really changed for the better – I go out to see films with friends now. I never used to go out at night."
Candee - employee social firm
“There is growing evidence of the global impact of mental illness. Mental health problems are among the most important contributors to the burden of disease and disability worldwide. Five of the 10 leading causes of disability worldwide are mental health problems. They are as relevant in low-income countries as they are in rich ones, cutting across age, gender and social strata. Furthermore, all predictions indicate that the future will see a dramatic increase in mental health problems”
World Health Organisation
“People unemployed or not in the paid workforce had the highest rates of mental disorder, a prevalence rate of 26% for unemployed men and 34% for unemployed women, compared with prevalence rates of 15.1% for men and 14.7% for women in full-time paid employment .”
Australian Institute of Health and Welfare (AIHW). (2008). A

Social Firms Australia ltd
ABN: 90 110 698 489

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