Children and young people report

Usel’s U Shred NI secures major government contract

Leading social enterprise Ulster Supported Employment Ltd (Usel), which provides employment for people with disabilities, has won a major contract to shred and recycle sensitive documents for the Northern Ireland Executive.

Usel’s subsidiary U Shred NI secured the three-year £317,000 contract to destroy confidential documents held by Stormont departments and other key government bodies, with the shredded documents recycled to create new paper products.

The company, which has implemented the strictest industry compliance and security measures, is one of the first to win Northern Ireland government tender opportunities reserved for organisations dedicated to supporting disabled and disadvantaged people in the workforce. 

Usel Chief Executive Bill Atkinson says the contract will reinforce Usel’s position as a key provider of employment for people with long term health conditions and disabilities.

Adding: “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. This contract will allow us to secure jobs for people with disabilities or health conditions during this difficult time with the opportunity to create further jobs in the future.”

Social value

Finance Minister, Conor Murphy MLA, recently visited the Usel manufacturing and recycling base in Belfast to view its operations and said: “It was great to see first-hand the impressive set up and to be able to meet some of the staff. 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.

“The awarding of this £317,000 contract will provide job security for those working within the organisation as well as potential employment opportunities for others and highlights that social enterprises have the skills and experience to deliver significant contracts to our public sector.”

It is expected that the contract will help create up to 15 new green jobs for U Shred NI, which was formed in January 2020. U Shred NI currently employs 16 people in a state-of-the-art operation that disposes of confidential material in a secure environment and recycles it in line with Usel’s commitment to green principles and the circular economy.

Scott Jackson, Head of Manufacturing and Recycling at Usel, says that the contract is the largest secured by the new subsidiary to date and something the organisation view as a launch pad for winning more contracts in the public and private sectors. 

U Shred NI already provides shredding services for councils, schools, banks and a range of blue-chip companies and smaller businesses.

Green economy

Usel has plans to continue to expand U Shred NI to become the largest social enterprise confidential waste provider in Northern Ireland. The confidential shredding industry is currently worth £10 million per year in Northern Ireland and with the Stormont Executive’s increasing commitment to the green economy, this is set to grow even further. 

Jackson says: “We are dedicated to recycling as much material as possible to reduce the reliance on landfill. 100 per cent of the pulped documents will be sent to paper mills in Great Britain to make products such as napkins, kitchen roll and toilet paper.”

As an organisation, Usel is committed to the green economy and their shredding service can be an asset to companies looking to fulfil their Corporate Social Responsibility commitments by reducing waste and providing jobs in the local community.

“Everything we do centres around developing a greener society while at the same time creating a brighter future for people with disabilities by providing sustainable jobs and excellent training and support. We are delighted to be working with the Executive and look forward to partnering with other businesses and organisations looking to reduce their waste through our secure confidential document shredding service,” adds Jackson.

Usel:  six decades dedicated to helping the most vulnerable in society

Usel, was formed in 1962 with the aim of providing supported paid employment for people with disabilities within its Belfast manufacturing base. 

It is the largest direct supporter of people with disabilities and health related conditions and trains, supports and employs up to 1,200 people across Northern Ireland every year.

The company uses the social enterprise model, tackling social issues and reinvesting its profits back into expanding its workforce. For every £1 invested Usel, £18 is created in social value.

As well as U Shred NI, it runs a number of other successful social enterprises including three Ability Cafes at Belfast Zoo, Lady Dixon Park and the Spectrum Centre; Usel Recycling Solutions reprocessing mattresses, carpets, furniture, plastics and cardboard; Manufacturing Solutions, making mattresses, bedding and bespoke kit bags for the emergency services and SMARTPAC, a customised sewing service.

Usel has won several major contracts in recent months. Recycling Solutions recently won a tender to process Mid and East Antrim Borough Council’s cardboard waste. All the material is baled and sent to England to make new cardboard boxes and products.

The company also provides training programmes such as STRIDE (Support and Training to Realise Individual Development Employment) which helps hundreds of people with disabilities and health related conditions find work throughout Northern Ireland every year.

Usel’s head office and main base includes a 65,000 square foot factory situated on a three-acre site in Cambrai Street in North Belfast. It also has offices in Derry/Londonderry, Portadown and Ballymena.

During the Covid pandemic, Usel staff provided a range of support services to help some of the most vulnerable people in Northern Ireland. They offered support and training to find employment; virtual social activities, including cooking demonstrations, online yoga, and quizzes for those isolated in their homes and expert tips on how to stay safe and healthy.

The company runs a highly successful manufacturing, recycling and employability business and is in partnership with organisations to provide support to get people back into employment, operating a range of training programmes that assists people with disabilities to gain the qualifications and skills required for sustainable employment.

Usel Chief Executive, Bill Atkinson says: “We would like to appeal to companies seeking to recruit to offer opportunities to someone with a disability or health condition. We can provide a range of training programmes to ensure they are ready for work. The people we work with are highly motivated and want to work and have the skill set to do a great job for any willing employer.”

For more information about all Usel’s services visit

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