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The Breakdown: Social Enterprise & The 2024 Federal Budget 

The 2024 Federal Budget has the potential to be a significant turning point for the social enterprise sector in Australia, building on the momentum of collaborative efforts and advocacy.

With an allocation of $54 million towards paid employment pathways, social enterprise sector has the opportunity to transform the way individuals access sustainable job opportunities, empowering communities to thrive and fostering economic independence for all. This funding initiative encompasses two vital components:

$21.9 million has been earmarked to bolster social enterprises and employers in engaging job seekers through paid placements. Notably, this includes a provision of $1.5 million over two years to facilitate the certification of an anticipated 500 Work Integrated Social Enterprises. Scheduled to operate from 1 July 2025 to 30 June 2027, eligible entities can seek funding to offer paid placements at full award wages, coupled with fully funded support services.

The Real Jobs, Real Wages program has been allocated $32.1 million. Designed to uplift job seekers grappling with long-term unemployment, this program aims to enhance their capabilities by offering a tapered subsidy to employers who can provide secure and supportive job opportunities.

This year’s budget commitments signify a pivotal juncture for social enterprise in Australia, which has long championed greater integration into the national employment services framework. The announcements build upon existing investments within the sector, particularly the Outcomes Fund and the Social Enterprise Development Initiative unveiled last year.

Social Enterprise Australia CEO Jess Moore expressed optimism about the government’s commitment. “WorkFoundations specifically recognises the role jobs-focused social enterprises play in providing employment for people most shut out of work and provides the opportunity for social enterprises to show that they should be part of Australia’s employment system”, said Moore. “We’re so pleased to see the government’s ongoing and growing commitment to unlock social enterprise contribution.” 

Similarly, White Box Enterprises CEO Luke Terry praised the recognition of social enterprises, highlighting their significant role in providing employment opportunities for marginalised individuals. “This is a major milestone for the sector,” Terry said. “We know most mainstream employers aren’t equipped to provide the additional support needed to get long-term unemployed individuals engaged in meaningful work. But social enterprises are. They have a proven business model that creates jobs and contributes to Australia’s economy. Until now, they have been the missing piece in employment services. This announcement changes that. It takes us a step closer to being an integrated part of the employment system.”

The budget also allots an additional $4.7 million over three years to establish, oversee, and evaluate the Outcomes Fund, introduced last year. This fund is poised to focus on enhancing outcomes for families and children, mitigating intergenerational and community disadvantages, addressing employment barriers, facilitating inclusive employment models, and catering to the housing needs of vulnerable and homeless Australians. Furthermore, payments under this scheme will be channelled to states, territories, and service providers (including not-for-profits and social enterprises) contingent upon projects attaining agreed-upon, measurable outcomes.

In response to these announcements, David Hetherington, CEO of Impact Investing Australia, emphasised the Fund’s potential to attract private capital for social impact projects. He noted that such initiatives hold promise in addressing entrenched disadvantages across various social domains. “Impact Investing Australia is pleased to be consulting with the Government on the implementation of the Social Impact Investing Taskforce recommendations, including the Outcomes Fund. The Fund will enable social service providers to attract additional private capital to tackle entrenched disadvantage, creating more investible opportunities and increasing the number and size of social investment opportunities,” said Hetherington. “Many complex social challenges are suited to outcomes-based payment initiatives, such as out-of-home care, homelessness, health, unemployment and recidivism.”

Beyond employment-focused endeavours, the budget rollout includes several other noteworthy announcements aimed at fostering positive social and environmental impacts:

  • An allocation of $8 million for impact investment targeted at “People at risk of homelessness.”
  • $6 million earmarked for impact investment directed towards “Vulnerable Priority Groups.”
  • A $7.5 million budget for the Sustainable Households Initiative.
  • A significant $100 million injection into Community Solar Banks.
  • $35 million devoted to converting Food Waste to Healthy Soils.
  • A substantial $130 million dedicated to bolstering Drought Resilience, Water Security, and Community Resilience.
  • A notable $290 million set aside for Social Housing Energy Upgrades.
  • An allocation of $82 million to fortify Hydrogen supply chains.
  • A generous $200 million investment towards Plastics and Recycling Initiatives.

A big thanks to Minister Tony Burke and the Department of Employment and Workplace Relations, Julian Hill and the House Select Committee on Workforce Australia Employment Services, Treasurer Jim Chalmers, and Commonwealth Treasury for their acknowledgment of the value social enterprises bring and the transformative difference they make for individuals marginalised in the labor market. At the same time, monumental strides like this are a testament to the coordinated efforts of numerous stakeholders within the sector, whose dedication has propelled these advancements. Achievements of this magnitude don’t just happen, so a heartfelt acknowledgment goes out to the countless individuals across the sector whose dedicated efforts have brought this initiative to fruition.

Australia boasts over 12,000 social enterprises contributing an estimated annual value of $21.3 billion to the economy. These enterprises have collectively generated employment opportunities for more than 206,000 individuals, with a substantial focus on employment services accounting for approximately 58%.

With the sustained support and recognition emanating from the federal budget, the prospects for social entrepreneurs and the broader social enterprise ecosystem look promising. These strategic investments are poised to amplify the societal impact and economic contributions of social enterprises, setting the stage for a more inclusive and sustainable future.

Jay Boolkin
Jay Boolkin

I'm passionate about positive social change and the power of social entrepreneurship to tackle some of the world’s biggest problems. I believe that for-purpose business models can become part of the mainstream and I am enthusiastic about advocating for business models that are genuinely built around a social or environmental mission.

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