Policy Forum for Northern Ireland

We are continuing to organise full-scale virtual conferences which retain all the features of physical seminars, including full programmes, presentations with slides, panel discussions and live delegate questions and comments sessions, person-to-person and group networking, and a permanent record provided to all delegates afterwards. New events are coming on to our conference programme all the time, so there are plenty of opportunities 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 call +44 (0)1344 864796.

If you’re already booked on, joining instructions can be accessed from five working days before your conference via the booking dashboard. Need help? You can contact our Delegate Relations team at delegate.relations@forumsupport.co.uk or by calling the above number.

Priorities for improving mental health provision in Northern Ireland - the new Strategy, the impact of COVID-19, and issues for children and young people

April 2021


Price: £95 PLUS VAT
Format: DOWNLOADABLE PDF


***Full-scale policy conference taking place online***
This conference focuses on priorities for improving mental health provision in Northern Ireland.


The conference will be an opportunity to discuss the Draft Mental Health Strategy 2021-31 and the way forward for development and implementation - as well as key themes emerging from the consultation on the proposals.


Delegates will also examine the implementation of the Mental Health Action Plan, and the impact of COVID-19 on mental health in Northern Ireland - including the response so far and the impact of the pandemic on meeting short-term actions and ambitions.


Overall, areas for discussion include:


  • funding and effectiveness - priorities for resources to support the new strategy, and whether the actions it outlines go far enough to create the change required to improve mental health provision
  • implementation - identifying immediate actions for setting a pathway that enables delivery within the strategy’s 10-year timescale, while taking into account the impact of COVID-19
  • COVID-19 - its impact on mental health in NI, the response that has been required, and what can be learnt, as well as innovations that can be taken forward to improve services into the future
  • service development - reducing variation, restructuring mental health systems around GPs, and opportunities for collaborative working, including with the charity and voluntary sector
  • public health - strategies for prevention, mental health promotion, and raising awareness
  • children and young people - implementing improvements to their mental health provision

The conference is bringing together stakeholders with key policy officials who are due to attend from the Department of Health, NI; the Department for Communities, NI; the Department for Infrastructure, NI; Department of Justice, NI; the Education and Training Inspectorate; the NIAO; and the DHSC.


The agenda


  • Taking forward improvements to mental health provision and key priorities for delivering the new strategy
  • Assessing the Draft Mental Health Strategy - funding priorities, delivery, mental health promotion, service transformation, and improving patient engagement, access and care
  • The COVID-19 pandemic - implications for mental health and the 10 year Northern Ireland Mental Health Strategy
  • Children and young people - managing the impact of the pandemic, improving access to support and taking forward coordinated improvements to services
  • Growing the mental health workforce and delivering training and support
  • Advancing the role of the charity and voluntary sector in mental health support
  • Developing a digital health model for mental health and utilising lessons from the response to COVID-19
  • Implementing effective specialist services and patient-centred care, and reducing variation

Relevant background and developments:


  • the new interim Mental Health Champion - the appointment of Professor Siobhan O’Neill, who we are pleased is a keynote speaker at the seminar
  • the Draft Mental Health Strategy 2021-31 - with 29 actions including mental health promotion, with a year-on-year action plan focusing on prevention, alongside service delivery improvements to provide increased access and patient-centred care
  • the Mental Health Action Plan - published last year, which included the development of a mental health strategy, a COVID-19 response plan, and actions on governance, workforce and care networks
  • further COVID-19 restrictions - as Northern Ireland enters another lockdown and schools are closed again
  • the Working Together To Promote Mental Wellbeing NI campaign - involving the charity and voluntary sector, the PHA, Health and Social Care Trusts, the NI Ambulance Service and the Health and Social Care Board
  • Interdepartmental Action Plan - published in response to the Still Waiting report, with measures on governance, funding, information collection and joined-up working
  • Health and Wellbeing 2026 - Delivering Together - wider transformation of health and social care in Northern Ireland which puts the patient and service user at the centre of the reconfiguration and development of new services and pathways
  • Union says trainee teachers must be taught to spot signs of fragile mental health in pupils - recent calls for all student teachers to be taught modules on mental health and emotional support, as well as how to take urgent action

Key areas for discussion:


  • strategy implementation - priorities for the mental health funding plan, timescales and milestones, the impact of COVID-19 on delivery, and prospects for the strategy creating the required change
  • Mental Health Action Plan delivery during the COVID-19 pandemic:
    • the impact of work having to be pushed back, and how this can inform delivery of the new strategy
    • assessing progress in meeting short-term priorities and actions related to the pandemic
  • prevention and raising awareness:
    • the inbox for the Mental Health Champion
    • assessing further opportunities and developing ways of working across government departments
    • what is needed from the year-to-year health promotion plans, and the way forward for collaborative public health campaigning
  • children’s mental health:
    • taking forward the Interdepartmental Action Plan - including support for those working with children, developing specialist treatment, improving access to support, provision for children with additional needs, and the transition to adult services
    • COVID-19 - managing the ongoing impact and potential long-term effects of the pandemic and school closures on children’s mental health, and preparing for increased demand on services
  • the mental health workforce - priorities for training, recruitment and retention, learning from adapting working practices through the pandemic, supporting staff welfare and maximising the use of the community and voluntary sector expertise, as suggested in the draft Strategy
  • restructuring the mental health system - assessing potential benefits and practicalities of services being centred around the GP, embedding psychological therapies, development of a patient-centred approach, and how best to reduce variation and improving patient access
  • digital mental health - how to bring forward the lessons from the pandemic in the development of a digital health model, and priorities for implementation to support access to self-help

Policy officials attending:


Our forums are known for attracting strong interest from policymakers and stakeholders. Places have been reserved by officials from the Department for Communities, NI; the Department for Infrastructure, NI; the Department of Health, NI; Department of Justice, NI; the Education and Training Inspectorate; the Northern Ireland Audit Office; and the Department of Health and Social Care.


Overall, we expect speakers and attendees to be a senior and informed group including Members of both Houses of Parliament, senior government and regulatory officials involved in this area of policy, as well as senior leaders from HSC trusts, local authorities, representatives from the Royal Colleges and other professional bodies and trade unions, health charities and the third sector, pharmaceutical companies, housing associations, patient advocacy groups, consultancies, academics, legal firms, together with reporters from the national and specialist media.


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


  • full, four-hour programme including comfort breaks - you’ll also get a full recording and transcript 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 conferenc



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