History of Ulster Supported Employment Ltd
Ulster Supported Employment Ltd (USEL) was established in 1962 to provide supported paid employment for people with disabilities within its Belfast manufacturing base. However, its origins can be traced back to nearly a century earlier to 1871, when Mrs Mary Hobson founded the Workshops for the Blind, prompted by an interest in the plight of a Broughshane man who was totally blinded as the result of an accident and therefore unable to support his wife and eight children. Unable to secure him work in England and Scotland she acted upon the question of Mr James Chambers, the honorary secretary of the Workshops for the Blind in Liverpool “Why not have workshops of your own in Belfast”?
Premises were sourced at No. 6 Howard Street in Belfast for £75 per year and were adapted to provide working room for twenty to thirty blind people. When Workshops for the Blind moved to Lawnbrook Avenue in Belfast USEL rented premises from them and in 1980 USEL merged with the organisation to become the largest supporter of people with disabilities into open employment within Northern Ireland. In 2001 they moved from Lawnbrook Avenue to a large modern factory in Cambrai Street, Belfast to achieve their mission “to expand the choice of paid job opportunities for people with disabilities and health related conditions and by means of training and development assist with progression into and within mainstream employment”.
The core ethos statement of the company reflects the various delivery models within the organisation.
Supporting, Providing, Promoting Employment.
We support employment by managing a range of employment programmes on behalf of the Department of Employment and Learning and European Union that are specifically designed to help people with disabilities or health related conditions move into or return to employment.
We presently support over 1500 people with disabilities through these programmes who are placed in more than 750 companies across Northern Ireland. Our programmes include:
- Workable NI
- Step (Skills Training for Employment Progression)
- Steps to Work
The training and development department within USEL provide guidance and vocational training to our clients to enhance their independence, social development and integration into society.
USEL also deliver direct employment to people with disabilities through their factory in Cambrai Street. 75% of employees within the manufacturing operation have a disability or health related conditions and are employed in the manufacture of beds, sports and travel bags and various types of industrial sewing. Their customers now include a growing number of independent bedding retailers, leading local hotels, nursing homes, fire services and student accommodation providers.
CCTV monitoring services are also delivered on two client sites as part of the business operation. USEL provide a range of high quality contract services to numerous business sectors. This service allows us to provide employment options for our employees on a contracted out basis to carry out specific tasks.
We promote the opportunities for our clients to enter and progress in the employment of their choice through their self development by means of accredited training delivered by our training department, Aspire Training. The training is delivered to clients on the various employment programmes by means of short accredited courses in bite sized elements. This approach permits clients to continue with their employment and achieve accreditations at a pace which best suits their needs.
Internally we deliver training to our internal factory employees and all other departments within the organisation.
Today the organisation spans across the whole of the province with offices in Belfast, Portadown, Omagh and Londonderry. We also have two additional training premises in Belfast City Centre.