The Micro Enterprise Project: building meaningful employment opportunities for people with disability

Ms Jayne Barrett1

1Community Living Project, Christies Beach, Australia

Since 2012, the Micro Enterprise Project (MEP) has enabled people with intellectual and neurological disabilities who are traditionally not seen to have capacity to work to set up their own small business.

MEP was designed using social and economic participation principles and a customised employment approach. Originally funded via philanthropy and government, MEP is now funded through individual NDIS plans. It is co-designed and managed with the person, family and community members. MEP builds on an individual’s interests, gifts and passions. Participants gain skills in business, customer relations and marketing, generate income, and gain a public profile which facilitates natural relationships and community inclusion.

MEP has supported more than 25 people, primarily with intellectual disability, with 6 enterprises having been operating for 6 years. ME’s range from furniture restoration, lawn mowing, sale of flowers and vegetables, to art work. MEP demonstrates positive work outcomes, skill development, increased self-confidence and community engagement. Independent evaluation indicated:
1. People experience higher levels of authority
2. Financial rewards
3. Increased community presence and relationships
4. Changed mindsets and attitudes
5. Strengthening of social capital.

A large gap exists between NDIS expressed aspirations of economic participation for people with intellectual and other disability, and current systems to support this. Persistent stereotypes limit people’s capacity to work and contribute to society. Across Australia, there are micro enterprises developing at the local level and a growing interest by individuals and families in accessing consultancy support.


Jayne Barrett has worked at the Community Living Project since 1984. Jayne manages the Micro Enterprise Project and the Circles Initiative which strengthens freely given relationships for people with disability. Jayne is passionate about building inclusive communities where everyone is welcome and has worked with families across Australia, Ireland, New Zealand and Canada.

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