Policy Forum for Northern Ireland

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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

December 2020


Price: £95 PLUS VAT
Format: DOWNLOADABLE PDF


***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 Northern Ireland Executive; the Department of Health; the Department of Justice; the DfE; the Education and Training Inspectorate; the Department for the Economy; the Department for Communities; the Department for Infrastructure; the Audit Office; 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 and adapting the mental health workforce 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 Northern Ireland Executive; the Department of Health; the Department of Justice; the DfE; the Education and Training Inspectorate; the Department for the Economy; the Department for Communities; the Department for Infrastructure; the Audit Office; and the Welsh Government.


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



This pack includes

  • Dropbox video recording of the conference
  • PDF transcript of the discussion, including all speaker remarks and Q&A
  • PDFs of speakers' slide material (subject to permission)
  • PDFs of the delegate pack, including speaker biographies and attendee list
  • PDFs of delegate articles