Case study: A strong future for supported employment
A mix of experience and fresh ideas is allowing Brite to flourish as one of Australia’s largest disability enterprises.
Brite has been around for more than 40 years and is a member-based, incorporated organisation. It was founded at its current site in Broadmeadows when a dedicated group of local families came together to create employment and training opportunities for their children with intellectual disabilities.
According to Brite’s CEO, Nick Mac Hale, its success is a result of its inclusive, positive culture and person-centred approach.
‘We encourage new and long-term employees and families who come to Brite to share in Brite’s vision to build on the strengths of our employees and our community.’
As people transition to the NDIS, we have an opportunity to provide different and more holistic services to people… It’s not just about giving people a job.’
For example, we’ve been piloting a model, based on the customised employment framework developed in the United States, to expand our person-centred approach to creating sustainable open employment opportunities. This involves undertaking a process of discovery to better understand the interests, hopes and needs of people with disability, and what they want to get out of their work. We then use this understanding to create opportunities within Brite, or to help individuals access jobs in the open market.’
‘It’s not just about giving people a job. This allows us to find genuine matches for employees and employers that add value to businesses and are meaningful for employees.’ ‘We’ve also been able to support some great new microbusiness ideas.’
Brite acts as a ‘backbone’ for a number of microbusinesses, providing administration, financial, legal and business development support to empower people with a disability to commercialise their ideas. Nick says a key strength of the business are the 147 supported employees, and their families and carers. ‘We also have strong commitment from our Board and leadership team to pursue opportunities that are not just ‘business as usual.’
The original 2-hectare site owned by Brite now includes a factory, warehouses, nursery, and learning facilities. During transition to the NDIS, Brite has invested in adapting to changes to ensure it remains viable. This includes accessing funding from the Department of Social Services, made available to support ADEs through the NDIS transition.
‘We’ve undertaken mapping of our value streams, focused on building staff capacity to deliver new high-quality support, and understanding where Brite’s policies and procedures can be improved to support our discovery process and customised employment.’ ‘Under NDIS, our business model is no different to any other business; we apply strong business acumen to effectively manage cash flow. We are focusing on increasing our commercial sales revenue so we can continue to grow and leverage new markets and gain new customers.’
Nick said that getting larger contracts on board is done by delivering in full and on-time, providing commercial partners with value for money, and working creatively to understand our commercial partner’s business requirements.
‘...the combination of being a proactive business partner with a strong social purpose is increasing our sales opportunities.’
Like many ADEs, Brite has an interest in social procurement policies that can make it more possible for ADEs to be competitive in a tendering environment. ‘We understand the need to have a commercial business mindset, delivering professional services that promote respect, and providing our supported employees with the best employability skills and training. Our social purpose is not hidden, however we don’t seek to trade on it, rather it is a value-add.’ ‘Under NDIS, funding for employment supports are rightly connected to the individual, not any one organisation. This creates the need for organisations to stand on their own two feet.’
‘Customer satisfaction is key for our commercial partners, as well as when supporting NDIS participants.’
Brite has spent the last 12 months preparing for the full introduction of the NDIS by holding family forums and engaging with supported employees and their families and carers. As CEO, Nick personally met with all employees and their families one on one, explaining the opportunity of the NDIS.
‘This has led to excellent outcomes and an increased level of trust, transparency and knowing that Brite will act on its duty of care to employees.’
‘We see NDIS as a wonderful opportunity for our community, as it changes the mindset of the way services are delivered for people and, like our employment model, it provides a real person-centred focus.’