Conference Assesses New Approaches To Wellbeing In Northern Ireland

June 10, 2015

Share this story


Health Minister Simon Hamilton has said that measuring levels of wellbeing will help inform policy decisions to improve life for people in Northern Ireland.

Minister Hamilton was speaking at the Carnegie UK Trust Conference on Wellbeing, held in Belfast today. The Conference follows a high-level Roundtable which worked over the course of a year to produce a set of ten recommendations to help improve wellbeing and address some of the most enduring health and social care challenges in Northern Ireland.

Speaking at the Conference at the Crumlin Road Gaol, Minister Hamilton said:

“I welcome the Carnegie Roundtable report, which sets out a road map for measuring and achieving wellbeing outcomes for people and communities in Northern Ireland. 

“I have been involved in the process which led to the report and I very much welcome the contribution it makes and its recommendations to the Executive.  Experience of using wellbeing frameworks elsewhere is encouraging and also helpful to the Executive as we look to future Programmes for Government.

“By framing our measurement around wellbeing, government can better understand the links between economic, social and environmental factors. This will enable these broader wellbeing measures to be embedded into new and continuing initiatives, such as public sector reform and ultimately inform decisions to improve life for people here.”

Concluding, the Minister said: “My Department’s ‘Making Life Better’ strategy illustrates the increasing mutual reliance of public policies and the need for greater cross–cutting collaboration in policy development, both at Government and local levels.”

Daithí McKay MLA, Chair of the Assembly’s Finance and Personnel Committee who was also speaking at the conference today said,

“I see the work carried out by the Roundtable on Wellbeing as an exciting development which has the potential to transform and modernise the way in which the public sector and other stakeholders work collaboratively and with a common purpose to deliver outcomes which are meaningful and important for our citizens.  

 

“Whilst on a recent Committee visit to Edinburgh, I was impressed to hear how the Scottish Government has led the way internationally in developing an outcomes-based approach under the ‘Scotland Performs and National Performance Framework’. I believe that we can learn from and apply much of this work, particularly in breaking down the “silo mentality” and ensuring that those who are developing policy and delivering public services have a clearer understanding of how their work fits into the bigger picture in terms of contributing to the greater good.

The event today will hopefully start a process of engagement to explain the Wellbeing concept and convince others of its real potential.”

Speaking at the Carnegie UK Trust’s Wellbeing Conference, Roundtable Co-Chair Aideen McGinley OBE, added:

As our world gets increasingly more complex we seek ways of managing that complexity. Our lives are lived in the round and all too often we make matters worse, by compartmentalising the issues and problems we face. 

 

Wellbeing is a holistic concept that enables us to recognise the interdependencies of life be they social, environmental, economic or democratic with an eye to the longer term. It is about prevention rather than the cure. It is about being equipped to make the difficult decisions about priorities in a time of austerity but most importantly it’s about people and the future they want”.

The gathering of 150 representatives from the public, private and voluntary sectors follows the publication of recommendations in March 2015, received by Minister Hamilton and Committee Chair McKay which set out to improve wellbeing in Northern Ireland.

The high-level Roundtable comprised a wide range of experience including public servants, academics, NGO representatives and elected representatives.  They worked over the course of a year, speaking to a wide range of people about the need for change to address some of the most enduring challenges in Northern Ireland.

Among the 10 recommendations for developing a wellbeing framework were introducing a new, innovative way of delivering public services by encouraging different government departments and agencies to work together towards shared outcomes; focusing spending on achieving economic and social outcomes in difficult financial times; and improving reporting and communicating the progress made in Northern Ireland to politicians and the public.

The recommendations are well placed to address the wellbeing paradox in Northern Ireland – that despite consistently topping UK tables for self-reported wellbeing, communities in Northern Ireland continue to experience challenges left behind by the Troubles, such as unemployment, inequalities, and high suicide rates.

Besides powerful contributors, a series of plenary sessions and breakout rooms allowed delegates to share ideas with a range of stakeholders across multiple sectors and explore the outcomes that are needed to put at the heart of a government and contribute directly to shaping a draft wellbeing framework.

The conference also heard from Dr. Peter Doran and John Woods of Queen’s University, Belfast, School of Law, both of whom animated the narrative and the vital next steps to advance the wellbeing agenda. Dr Peter Doran added,

“The Roundtable has been struck by the appetite for a new conversation about our democracy. From the heart of government to the citizen there’s an emerging conviction that we must put wellbeing and the citizen at the centre of everything we do.”

Delegates also received a Welsh perspective on wellbeing from Cynnal Cymru’s Policy Director, Rita Singh who discussed how Wales has embraced wellbeing and outlined the steps taken there to embed the concept into public policy. Ms. Singh said:

“The Welsh Government’s Well-being of Future Generations Bill has been hailed as “pioneering” and “a model for other countries” as it becomes one of the few countries globally to pass a law of this kind. Importantly, the ‘Wellbeing of Future Generations Act’ has been shaped by a year-long national conversation on the ‘Wales We Want’ which shaped the long-term goals for Wales. 

 

The Future Generations report (http://thewaleswewant.co.uk/ ), which presented the findings form the conversations, distilled it down to the seven foundations for well-being of future generations and will be one of the key resources for determining our national indicators and measuring success towards meeting the goals. ‘The Wales We Want’ conversation mirrors a global initiative by the United Nations, designed to meet the aspirations of all citizens.”