Finance Minister Conor Murphy visited Usel in North Belfast this week to congratulate the social enterprise on being awarded one of the first tender opportunities reserved for organisations whose main aim is supporting disabled and disadvantaged people in the workforce. 

“It was great to see first-hand the impressive set-up and to be able to meet some of the staff," said Minister Murphy. "Delivering maximum social value from public procurement is one of my key priorities and I am delighted that by awarding this contract we have been able to support this social enterprise which is supporting people with disabilities and health-related conditions into employment."

And he said the awarding of the £317,000 contract would provide job security for those working within the organisation. "It highlights that social enterprises have the skills and experience to deliver significant contracts to our public sector," Minister Murphy added. 

The contract will see Usel manage the removal of materials from multiple public sector locations allowing further growth of the social enterprise within the Circular Economy. 

Usel was established in 1962 with the aim of providing supported, paid employment for people with disabilities within its Belfast manufacturing base. In 1980 they incorporated the Workshops for the Blind becoming the largest direct supporter of people with disabilities and health related conditions in Northern Ireland.

Usel train, support and employ up to 1,200 people with disabilities and health-related conditions across the North every year. 

Usel CEO Bill Atkinson said the contract would give the venture a fillip during tough Covid times. 

“We are delighted to have been awarded this contract which has allowed us to further extend our provision having been awarded several significant contracts over the year," he said.