We and our coalition partners are urging all party leaders in Northern Ireland to commit to providing primary school children access to fully funded counselling and therapy, once the political institutions are restored.

On the back of its primary school counselling campaign earlier this year, we established a coalition of representatives1 from a range of therapeutical professional bodies and providers to push for much needed investment.

The coalition’s report, ‘The case for investing in therapeutic interventions in Northern Ireland’s schools’, has provided independent evidence to reinforce the vital need to re-establish funding for counselling and therapeutic services, learning some key lessons from the Healthy Happy Minds pilot programme.

Evidence and testimony 

Using evidence and testimony from the report the coalition aims to influence the best possible provision for children and young people - following the re-establishment of Northern Ireland’s Executive and Assembly.

The report includes the voices of children, parents, teachers and school leaders who reinforce how much these services are needed and how many people benefit from counselling and wider therapy interventions.

It reveals that 671 schools benefited from primary school counselling and therapeutic services since 2021, with 92% of those surveyed saying it had a positive impact on the children.

The report will be shared with NI party leaders, relevant All-Party Parliamentary Groups and health and education spokespeople.

Proud legacy under threat

Steve Mulligan, BACP Four Nations Lead, said: “We know counselling changes lives and investment in these critical counselling and therapeutic services has been a lifeline for many vulnerable children and young people. But this proud legacy is under threat.

“No contemporary issue has united politicians in Northern Ireland across the political divide more than their universal disappointment to these cuts to primary school counselling.

“We believe that evidence and compelling testimonies in this report, provide a powerful case for longstanding investment in counselling and therapeutic support for children and young people of all ages across Northern Ireland.

“We urge political leaders to commit to placing funded counselling and therapy at the heart of their next programme of Government, thus going some way to tackle the growing mental health crisis that children and young people are facing.’’

 Claire Lousie Vaculik, Chair of the British Association of Art Therapists, said:

"The Healthy Happy Minds programme in Northern Ireland provided schools with access to a broad range of therapeutic interventions for primary school children, including art therapy.

“This joint report demonstrates just how much these services are needed with 92% of people surveyed saying the services had a positive impact. Art therapy has a key role to play in improving the mental wellbeing of children and we look forward to seeing a clear commitment from political leaders that art therapy will form part of a coherent psychological service in Northern Ireland."

Jay Buntin, Co-Founder and Director of Pure Mental NI said: “Counselling and therapeutic services in primary schools are a vital element of many children’s support network and the Healthy Happy Minds pilot programme allowed for this support to be provided to thousands of young people across Northern Ireland. Pure Mental was very disappointed to see this pilot come to an end in March 2023. 

Since then we have been delighted to work alongside BACP and counselling providers to produce this evidence report which will highlight the positive impact these services had. We hope that this report along with a consensus of political support can bring about a new programme of counselling and therapeutic services in primary schools in the very near future.”


1 British Association for Counselling and Psychotherapy (BACP)

Barnardo’s NI

British Association for Music Therapy (BAMT)

British Association of Art Therapists (BAAT)

British Association of Dramatherapists (BADth)


Illuminate Counselling

Jigsaw Community Counselling Centre

Let’s Talk NI Counselling

Links Counselling

Play Therapy UK

Pure Mental

Rachel Morrison Counselling & Psychotherapy

Relate NI

Shepherding Lambs Counselling and Training Service

Space Counselling

Tully New Bank Stables