Praise for state energy provider’s social procurement

Western Australia’s largest energy provider has announced it will provide employment to 70 workers living with a disability.

The State Government’s Western Power has awarded a contract to BuyAbility, a supported employment initiative of National Disability Services, that will see people living with disability employed at various metropolitan sites over the next year and a half.

It marks the first such procurement contract in the state’s energy sector and is aimed at setting a precedent in social procurement in the power sector.

Helen Bednar

Helen Bednar, national manager of BuyAbility, said it was a “great example” of taking initiative by requiring their suppliers to also procure from disability enterprises.

Under the contract, BGIS, an international real estate and facilities management service provider, will deliver the disability employment program at Western Power on behalf of BuyAbility.

The disability enterprise, Activ, will have to meet strict requirements of support for their workers, as well as award requirements and audits to ensure working conditions are acceptable, Ms Bednar says.

Over the next 18 months workers will be engaged at eight Western Power metropolitan depot sites.

Western Power’s Tamara Brooker said the energy provider was committed to building strong relationships within the community and removing any barriers that could prevent people from seeking work with the organisation.

“The partnership with BGIS and NDS allows us to meet our corporate social responsibility objectives by working with local businesses to employ a diverse workforce, while maintaining our commitment to safe and efficient work practices at all of our work sites across the network.”

Inclusive procurement should be mandated

Ms Bednar says governments need to go further and make the engagement of disability enterprises part of standard procurement process.

“We need to include a mandatory requirement at all levels of government to consider the engagement of disability enterprises in procurement contracts.”

Such a requirement could include targets so that improved outcomes translate throughout the supply chain, according to Ms Bednar.

Using disability enterprises has valuable flow-on effects for those with a disability, as well as for carers, she says.

“Employment opportunities such as this are so valuable to people with disability as they provide additional income, a sense of purpose, and belonging, training opportunities and qualifications.”

The contract is set to provide $593,000 in net economic benefits thanks to the revenue generated by the Disability Enterprise, government savings and increased career participation.

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