The NICS Postal Contract


The Social Value Unit were invited to work with the Northern Ireland’s Central Procurement Directorate (CPD) to add Buy Social clauses to their tender for a new Postal Contract. In August 2016 postal operator Whistl won the five year contract worth £30 million to deliver the service for Departments including Education, Health and Finance as well as other public sector users such as Colleges and Transport.

The services take place across Northern Ireland with Whistl responsible for collecting, sorting and transporting the post to Royal Mail for final doorstep delivery.

Buy Social Clause

After careful consideration and significant engagement with postal providers the Social Value Unit and CPD agreed a set of social clauses which were included in the contract specification, embedding the best practice guidance of the Buy Social model developed by the Strategic Investment Board and endorsed by the Northern Ireland Procurement Board in November 2015.

The inclusion of these clauses in the contract mean that the contractor must employ people who are long term unemployed and leaving education, including those with disabilities.  In this case Whistl must ensure 187 weeks of paid employment are provided per year of the contract for people in these target groups.


Results so far demonstrate Whistl’s strong commitment to delivering the Buy Social requirements.  One of the people to benefit from this clause is James Martin.

After completing a Level 2 qualification in Warehousing James enrolled himself on the Job Match programme with Disability Action.  Shortly thereafter an employment opportunity arose with Whistl under the Buy Social clauses.  With the support of Disability Action and Disability Employment Service (part of the Department for Communities), he gained a permanent position with Whistl in November 2016 and is a great asset to the company.

Disability Action commented:

“Utilising the Supported Employment Model, Disability Action’s Job Match team worked with Whistl to gain a clear understanding of their business needs and to ascertain the skills they require from their employees.

It was clear from an early stage that James was a young man with an excellent range of skills and a high level of motivation to work.  Disability Action supported him throughout the recruitment process with Whistl; negotiating a short work trial and advocating from pre-employment stage to job start. James and his manager continue to be supported by Job Match to ensure his continued success and the development of his career.”

Also benefitting from the Buy Social clause is Sharmila Thakurta who is combining study and work through a Business Administration apprenticeship.  Sharmila described how enjoyable she has found the experience:

“I went to university to study computer science but after the first year I knew it wasn’t for me so I came back home and looked into business administration as an apprenticeship.  That’s where I saw the opportunity with Whistl.  It’s really good that I can mix practical on the job training with study and get paid at the same time!”

Tiemen van Bruggen, Operations Director for Whistl added:

“We were delighted to offer James and Sharmila full time positions within our warehouse. Not only did winning this contract have a positive impact on our Northern Ireland workforce but we also have the opportunity showcase the delivery of real, tangible, direct and indirect social benefits for Northern Ireland people.”

The Central Procurement Directorate commented on their experience of including Buy Social clauses in this contract:

“The support and guidance from SIB, the development and embedding of the clauses shows the impact public procurement can have on employment and training opportunities across a wide range of markets in Northern Ireland. The monitoring returns from Whistl are encouraging and demonstrate the contractor’s commitment to fulfilling the clause requirements for each year of the contract.”

Further Information
Contact the Social Value Unit by emailing or telephoning 028 9090 9422.  Further information can also be found at

Mentioned in this Case Study