Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull was on hand to launch Toowoomba’s Vanguard Laundry Services, a new state-of-art facility offering employment opportunities and career advice for people who have experienced mental illness and have been unemployed for over five years.
Vanguard Laundry Services is the brain-child of local nonprofit, Toowoomba Clubhouse. The centre provides employment opportunities for over 40 individuals living with a mental illness in Toowoomba. It is the region’s only full barrier wall system laundry, and is the only business in the region with a career development centre striving to find employment opportunities for the socially disadvantaged.
“Mental health issues affect more Queenslanders than cancer and diabetes combined,” says Luke Terry, Social Enterprise Champion, Executive Director of Toowoomba Clubhouse and founder of Vanguard Laundry Services.
“Traditional employment programs have a success rate of 14 per cent in helping people unemployed with mental illness get to 13 weeks of employment. Our Toowoomba social enterprise programs have a success rate of 75 per cent for 26 weeks and beyond.
“We work with people every day in our clubhouse programs that want to give work a go. Social enterprises like Vanguard provide that opportunity.”
In addition to being an employment launch pad for people from disadvantaged backgrounds, Vanguard Laundry Services offers a unique social enterprise employment model, offering career and vocational advice, on-the-job assistance as well as career guidance, courses and training.
All dividends from the laundry are re-invested back into the business to create more jobs or kick-start another social enterprise business.
One of Vanguard Laundry Services’ biggest and earliest supporters has been the Westpac Foundation. The Foundation provided a $10,000 Community Grant in 2013 to develop the business model and followed up in 2015, with a $100,000 social enterprise grant.
The Westpac Foundation has also provided essential non-financial support from Westpac employees in the areas of human resources, web development, infrastructure support and waived fees as well as providing $1.6 million in equipment finance alongside $500,000 of impact investment from local social impact investors.
“Vanguard Laundry Services is a shining example of how social enterprises can make a real difference in nurturing more cohesive and inclusive communities by creating employment opportunities for Australians experiencing mental illness who are often excluded from mainstream employment,” says Sinclair Taylor, Westpac Foundation CEO.
“Not only has this remarkable project garnered the support of the local community, it also has the backing of leading businesses and the Federal Government, which are working together to provide employment opportunities for the region.
Luke Terry says the early support of the Westpac Foundation was extremely valuable.
“Not only was Westpac Foundation’s early support of the Vanguard Laundry vital in attracting other supporters to the project, but its More than Money skilled volunteering program has helped us develop a new website, write employment contracts and do graphic design – things we would never have been able to do on our own.”
Vanguard Laundry Services has received over $6 million in funding, finance and in-kind support from individuals and businesses including Westpac, Westpac Foundation, The Paul Ramsay Foundation, AMP, Ian Potter and local philanthropist Ian Knox.
Social Ventures Australia (SVA) provided strategic and commercial advice, identified sources of capital and philanthropy, brokered pro-bono legal support, recruitment assistance and support to realise this business opportunity.
Twenty-nine cash donations have been made worth $3.2 million and over $770,000 in pro bono and in kind support from 26 project partners. The enterprise has also borrowed over $2.1 million from social impact financiers.
Learn more about how Vanguard Laundry Services is changing lives one wash at a time.