We’ve welcomed additional funding for Healthy Happy Minds in Northern Ireland – following our meeting with Education Minister Michelle McIlveen to discuss the programme’s future.

Happy Healthy Minds aims to provide counselling and other therapy interventions – including art, music, drama, and play therapy – to primary aged school children across Northern Ireland, with schools receiving funding directly to buy in services.

Ms McIlveen announced a further £1.75 million which will extend the programme to March.


She said that the scheme was “invaluable in helping to support pupils across all our educational settings” and that “we cannot afford our children to lose out on the benefits”.

It comes after Jo Holmes, our Children, Young People and Families Lead, and Caryl Sibbett, our former vice chair who was representing British Association of Art Therapists (BAAT) and BAAT Northern Ireland, met the minister at Stormont in August to discuss the future of the programme.

Jo said: “It’s really good news the programme is being extended. It will give that continuity of support for some of the youngest and most vulnerable children in Northern Ireland.

“It will allow them to have access to therapeutic support on a longer-term basis.


“And extending the programme will also give a bit more security to our members who are working in primary schools.”

Our members Glenda McCormack and Michelle McGrath, Healthy Happy Minds providers, said: “The extension of funding for the Healthy Happy Minds programme is such welcome news, especially for those children who won't now have their therapeutic support end prematurely when the programme was due to end in December.

“As counsellors and therapists it’s encouraging to see the Education Minister support our profession by listening and advocating for the voices of our children, their families, school principals and staff in prioritising the mental health of our youngest pupils.”


A parent of a child supported by the programme said: “Through Healthy Happy Minds my child has been given the tools to manage her fears and self-doubt by letting go of the hidden hurts she was holding on to.

“This is for me the most priceless gift and has only been made possible through the passionate care, safety and trust of our school counsellor.”

A principal added: "The value added factor has been immense – immeasurable.

"As principal of a large school, my counsellor has delivered the layer of support we could never provide. She's the constant in our week, ready to support and advise.

"She invests her all. She listens.

"The feedback from pupils, parents and staff has been heartwarming. The reality is we couldn’t do without her. She now belongs.