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EACEA National Policies Platform


7. Health and Well-Being

7.2 Administration and governance

Last update: 22 January 2021

LAST MODIFIED ON: 11/09/2020 - 13:16

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  1. Governance
  2. Cross-sectoral cooperation


The Department of Health has overall policy responsibility for all aspects of health, including mental health and learning disabilities, public health, health services, the health workforce and health promotion. There is no single specific body with policy responsibility for the health of children and young people.

The National Health Service (NHS) in Northern Ireland is known as Health and Social Care (HSC). The Health and Social Care Board is the statutory organisation accountable to the Minister for Health and responsible for commissioning health and social care services.

At local level Health and Social Care Trusts provide integrated health and social care services across Northern Ireland. They manage and administer hospitals, health centres, residential homes, day centres and other health and social care facilities and provide a wide range of health and social care services to the community.

The Public Health Agency (PHA) has the key functions of improving health and wellbeing and health protection. It also provides professional input to the commissioning process. The PHA is jointly responsible, with the Health and Social Care Board (HSCB) for the development of a fully integrated commissioning plan for health and social care in Northern Ireland. The PHA works in partnership with local government, key organisations and other sectors to improve health and wellbeing and reduce health inequalities.

See Health and Social Care’s website for more detail on the structure of Health and Social Care.

The Department of Education has responsibilities in relation to health and well-being education and personal development. It also has overall policy responsibility for children and young people and youth work. The Department is leading on the development of the Northern Ireland Executive Strategy for Children and Young People which seeks to effect improvements in the well-being of children and young people in Northern Ireland, with specific outcomes targeted for improvement being their physical and mental health, and their enjoyment of play and leisure. A cross- departmental version of the Children and Young People’s Strategy was published on 16 December 2019.  Further work in bringing forward the Executive Strategy is being undertaken by the Children and Young People’s Strategy Team.

 The development of the draft Strategy is being taken forward by the Children and Young People’s Strategy Team.

The Executive Office which coordinates and oversees the policies of the Northern Ireland Executive has run a range of signature programmes within the Delivering Social Change framework (see 'Cross-sectorial cooperation’). These have focused on tackling poverty and improving children’s health, well-being, educational and life opportunities.               

The office of the Commissioner for Children and Young People for Northern Ireland (NICCY), is an executive non-departmental public body. The role of the Commissioner is to safeguard and promote the rights and best interests of children and young people as set out in the Commissioner for Children and Young People Order (Northern Ireland) 2003. One of the Commissioner’s high level objectives is concerned with ensuring the best possible health (including mental and emotional health) and protection from violence, abuse, neglect or mistreatment.

The Northern Ireland Assembly Committee for Health, which operated under the 2016-17 Executive, was established to advise and assist the Minister on matters within their responsibility. The Committee undertook a scrutiny, policy development and consultation role with respect to the Department and played a key role in the consideration and development of legislation.  The committee was re-established following the restoration of power-sharing  in January 2020, and operates under the 2017-2022 period

The Department for Communities is responsible for the central administration and promotion of sport in Northern Ireland. It also administers Sport Northern Ireland (Sport NI), the development public body responsible for sport and physical recreation in Northern Ireland. Sport NI has a range of functions and services, including:

  • Advising on matters relating to sport and physical recreation, our ‘government department (Department for Communities; DfC) and other government departments, education, district councils and other bodies interested in sport and physical recreation’; 
  • Encouraging the ‘provision of facilities for, and participation in, sport and physical recreation’; 
  • Assisting ‘the provision of administrative services, equipment, coaching and instruction’; 
  • ‘Assisting in the organising or supporting of, or participating in, international or other events, by bodies providing facilities for sport or physical recreation or organising such activities’; and
  • ‘Assisting bodies providing supportive services in connection with sport and physical recreation.

Sport NI is the main statutory body, through which public funding for sports in Northern Ireland is channelled. Sport NI is primarily funded by grant in aid from the Department for Communities and the National Lottery. The next ten year strategy for Sport and Physical Activity is at the time of writing (August 2020) under development. Sport NI’s draft corporate plan has 2 outcomes - Outcome One is “People adopting and sustaining participation in sport and recreation”. Indicators of success for Outcome One will come from a range of existing and new data sources, at both a population and programme level, including the Continuous Household Survey (CHS), the Young Person’s Behaviours & Attitudes Survey (YPBAS), Young Life & Time/Kids Life and Time (YLT/ KLT) and the All-Ireland Children’s Sport Participation and Physical Activity (CSPPA).

The Sport Northern Ireland Sports Institute focuses on improving sport performance through the provision of science, medicine and programme support to National Governing Bodies. The Institute’s work demonstrates strong collaboration with other institutes within the UK and Ireland; reflecting NI’s unique position at the intersection of both UK and Irish pathways.

The Northern Ireland Sports Forum is the recognised umbrella organisation for the voluntary sports sector in Northern Ireland and receives funding from Sport Northern Ireland.

Under section 10 of the Recreation and Youth Service (Northern Ireland) Order 1986, in the 11 Local Government Districts the district council have some responsibilities for recreation and leisure. The legislation states that:

each district council shall secure the provision for its area of adequate facilities for recreational, social, physical and cultural activities.

The legislation goes on to state that it shall be a function of the Sports Council [now Sport NI]:

on matters relating to sport and physical recreation, to advise the Department and other government departments, education and library boards [now the Education Authority], district councils and other bodies interested in sport and physical recreation.

Cross-sectoral cooperation

The Children's Services Co-operation Act (Northern Ireland) 2015 was introduced to improve cooperation in the delivery of services aimed at improving the well-being of children and young people. It places a duty on the Northern Ireland Executive to make arrangements to promote cooperation across a range of public bodies (defined as children’s authorities) and places a duty on these bodies to cooperate with each other and with other children’s service providers.

The Act also requires the Northern Ireland Executive to develop and adopt an overarching strategy. This is being taken forward by the Children and Young People’s Strategy Team in the Department of education, working in cooperation with other Executive departments, agencies, stakeholders and children and young people. The team is also responsible for working with children's authorities and children's providers in developing a Play and Leisure Programme.

Through the Delivering Social Change framework, the Executive Office coordinates key actions across government to take forward work on priority social policy areas. These actions and programmes are aimed at tackling poverty and improving children’s health, wellbeing, educational and life opportunities.

The Children and Young People’s Strategic Partnership is a multi-agency partnership that includes the leadership of key statutory agencies and community and voluntary organisations that have a responsibility for improving the lives of children and young people in Northern Ireland. The CYPSP aims to plan and provide services for children and young people more efficiently by making joint decisions about the services needed, and funding these services together.