Policy Forum for Northern Ireland

Since lockdown, we have been organising our full programme of conferences online. We will continue online until further notice, to ensure we play our part in helping our employees and delegates to remain safe during this time. We are pleased that so many key stakeholders, policymakers and other interested parties - both old friends and new delegates - are taking up the opportunity to discuss public policy issues and network at our impartial seminars. New events are coming on to our conference programme all the time. So there are plenty of opportunities for you to join us if you haven’t already, from wherever you are. For booking-related queries, or information on speaking, please email us at info@forumsupport.co.uk or contact us using one of the following numbers: +44 (0)7538736244 / +44 (0)7503591880 / +44 (0)7951044809.
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Priorities for improving mental health provision in Northern Ireland - implementing the Mental Health Action Plan, responding to COVID-19, and developing a mental health strategy

Morning, Wednesday, 9th December 2020

***Full-scale policy conference taking place online***

This conference will discuss the priorities for improving mental health provision in Northern Ireland.

The discussion is bringing together stakeholders with key policy officials who are due to attend from the Department of Health; the Department for Education; the Department for the Economy; the Department for Communities; the Department for Infrastructure; and the Welsh Government.

The discussion at a glance:

  • the Mental Health Action Plan - implementation, including its measures for responding to COVID-19
  • a mental health strategy - priorities for its development as part of the commitments in the Action Plan 
  • improving services for children and young people - priorities for coordination, patient engagement and service provision
  • funding, governance, and growing and supporting the mental health workforce

Key developments at a glance:

  • the new Mental Health Champion - the appointment of Professor Siobhan O’Neill, who we are pleased is a keynote speaker at the seminar
  • The Mental Health Action Plan - recently launched with a commitment to produce a 10-year mental health strategy, as well as:
    • managed care networks - and improving pathways, transitions, and primary and emergency care
    • an innovation fund - to support local initiatives
    • governance structure - streamlining to improve speed and quality of decision-making
    • the workforce - increases to mental health staff and supporting them with new ways of working
    • the Interdepartmental Action Plan in response to the Still Waiting - with measures on governance, funding, information collection and joined-up working
  • Professor: extend furlough scheme to protect NI vulnerable - the Belfast Telegraph reporting calls to the UK Government from the Mental Health Champion and the Finance Minister
  • Working Together To Promote Mental Wellbeing NI campaign - a five-week campaign on mental health, involving the charity and voluntary sector, the PHA, Health and Social Care Trusts, the NI Ambulance Service and the Health and Social Care Board

The discussion in detail:

  • The Mental Health Action Plan:
    • opportunities - for driving forward mental health provision and improvements
    • the new mental health champion - priorities for their role in raising awareness and being an advocate for mental health. 
  • The Interdepartmental Action Plan ­- implementation in areas such as:
    • support for carers and adults working with children
    • provision for children with learning disabilities and additional needs
    • developing specialist and flexible treatment options
    • access to help and supporting mental health awareness
    • improving the transition from child to adult services
  • Developing a mental health strategy
    • funding - priorities in mental health and the development of a 10-year funding plan
    • the mental health workforce - recruitment priorities, adapting to new methods of working including effective use of technology, and supporting welfare including through the impact of COVID-19
    • person-centred care - the role of the strategy in delivering system improvements for mental health, as emphasised in Health and Wellbeing 2026: Delivering Together:
    • patient engagement - in the development of the mental health strategy to ensure that services are user friendly, are responding to service user needs, and are as accessible as possible
    • innovation:
      • support - priorities for the proposed innovation fund for local mental health initiatives
      • inclusiveness - the role of community, third sector and voluntary groups in mental health support
    • perinatal mental health - with development of a specialist community service being a key ambition, delegates will discuss:
      • implementation - priorities and practicalities for delivering this specialist service
      • impact on improving children’s health - how perinatal services can contribute to wider benefits
  • COVID-19
    • managing the ongoing impact on children’s mental health:
      • service recovery - key priorities
      • school closures - strategies for supporting children following the disruption caused by lockdown and managing the potential long term effects
      • future capacity - adaptation of services and preparing for surges in child mental health cases
      • long term effects - dealing with their impact on mental health and service provision - identifying need, supporting vulnerable groups, and effective public health messaging on mental wellbeing
    • what can be learned:
      • how service delivery has had to adapt - and options for feeding the experience into the development of a mental health strategy
      • innovation - support methods that have been developed including remote delivery of mental health support, and utilising data to inform decisions and plans
      • workforce pressures - coping with increased demand and preparing for expected peaks

The agenda:

  • Driving forward mental health provision improvements, raising awareness, and implementation of the Mental Health Action Plan
  • Responding to mental health and wellbeing during the COVID-19 pandemic - service delivery, innovative support methods, coping with increased demand, and supporting the workforce
  • Delivering improved mental health provision for children and young people and managing the impact of COVID-19
  • Dealing with the long term effects of COVID-19, identifying need, supporting vulnerable groups and effective public health messaging
  • Priorities for funding, improving decision-making and commissioning
  • Increasing the mental health workforce and adapting to new methods of working
  • Development of a mental health strategy - priorities for service improvements, innovation and community and patient engagement:
    • Supporting mental health in primary care and delivering person-centred care pathways
    • If we always do what we always did…
    • Advancing local innovative approaches to mental health support
    • Developing a specialist community perinatal mental health service

Policy officials attending:

Our forums are known for attracting strong interest from policymakers and stakeholders. Places have been reserved by officials from the Department of Health; the Department for Education; the Department for the Economy; the Department for Communities; the Department for Infrastructure; the Education and Training Inspectorate; the Northern Ireland Audit Office; and the Welsh Government. Also due to attend are representatives from the Action for Children; Barnardo's NI; Belfast Health and Social Care Trust; Carlisle House; Carrickfergus Model Primary School; Cedar Foundation; Centre for Public Health, Queen's University Belfast; Child Health, Development and Emotional Wellbeing; Children in Northern Ireland; Clinical Education Centre; Counselling All Nations Services (CANS); Disability Action; Eating Disorders Association; Extern; Greater Belfast Senior Citizens Forum - Mental Health Sub Group; Health and Social Care Board; Institute of Public Health; Leonard Cheshire; Lightwork NI; Mid & East Antrim Borough Council; NHSCT; Northern Health and Social Care Trust; Northern Health and Social Care Trust; PAPYRUS Prevention of Young Suicide; PIPS Hope & Support; Positive Life; Probation Board PDNI; RCGP Northern Ireland; Royal College of Psychiatrists; Royal College of Psychiatrists Northern Ireland; Royal College of Speech and Language Therapists; Sandelford Special School; Shelter NI; South Eastern Health and Social Care Trust; Southern Health & Social Care Trust; Southern Health & Social Services Trust; St Patrick's Academy; TransgenderNI; Ulster University; Victims & Survivors Service and Western Health and Social Care Trust.

A press pass has been reserved by a representative from VIEWdigital.

This is a full-scale conference taking place online***

  • full, four-hour programme including comfort breaks - you’ll also get a full recording to refer back to
  • information-rich discussion involving key policymakers and stakeholders
  • conference materials provided in advance, including speaker biographies
  • speakers presenting via webcam, accompanied by slides if they wish, using the Cisco WebEx professional online conference platform (easy for delegates - we’ll provide full details)
  • opportunities for live delegate questions and comments with all speakers
  • a recording of the addresses, all slides cleared by speakers, and further materials, is made available to all delegates afterwards as a permanent record of the proceedings
  • delegates are able to add their own written comments and articles following the conference, to be distributed to all attendees and more widely
  • networking too - there will be opportunities for delegates to e-meet and interact - we’ll tell you how!

Full information and guidance on how to take part will be sent to delegates before the conference

Keynote Speakers

Professor Siobhan O’Neill

Interim Mental Health Champion for Northern Ireland, and Professor of Mental Health Sciences, Ulster University

David Babington

Chief Executive, Action Mental Health

Jennie Lee Sims

Mental Health Network Lead, RCN Northern Ireland


Órlaithí Flynn MLA

Member, Committee for Health, Northern Ireland Assembly

Robbie Butler MLA

Vice-Chairperson, All Party Group on Mental Health, Northern Ireland Assembly


Hugh Nelson

Head of Community Wellbeing, Northern Health and Social Care Trust

Barbara Campbell

Director of Children's Services & Executive Director of Social work, South Eastern Health and Social Care Trust

Dr Laurence Dorman

Chair, Royal College of General Practitioners NI

Dr Richard Wilson

Chair, Royal College of Psychiatrists Northern Ireland

Clare-Anne Magee

Head, Carers Northern Ireland

James A. Maxwell

Principal, Carrickfergus Grammar School

Dr Julie-Ann Maney

Senior Representative, Paediatric Emergency Medicine, RCPCH Ireland and Consultant, Paediatric Emergency Medicine, Royal Belfast Hospital for Sick Children

Dr Ursula Mason

Chair, South Belfast Federation; GP, Carryduff Surgery; and Vice-Chair, Royal College of General Practitioners Northern Ireland

Dr Julie Anderson

Consultant Psychiatrist, Northern Health and Social Care Trust; Chair, Perinatal Specialty Committee, RCPsych NI; and Regional Representative, Perinatal Faculty, RCPsych UK

Professor Nichola Rooney

Consultant Clinical Psychologist and Chair, BPS Division of Clinical Psychology NI

Dr Michael McMorran

Senior Psychiatry Trainee

Karen Collins

Chief Executive, AWARE

Kerry Anthony

Group Chief Executive, Inspire