The return to power-sharing in Northern Ireland’s (NI) parliament, Stormont, is a welcome step forward after a two-year pause.

The delay, during a period of considerable political and financial challenges, has impacted on many of our members and accredited services who support some of the most vulnerable people and communities.

We believe the reorganisation of the Executive and Assembly, together with an enhanced budget of £3 billion provides an important opportunity to move forward with the implementation of the NI Mental Health Strategy. It also ensures sustainable funding is available for counselling services in the statutory and third sectors to offset cuts from the last couple of years.

We’ll speak to new Ministers and Members of the new Assembly, from all parties, and continue to champion the critical role of our members in supporting those in need. A need that has unfortunately grown due to the pandemic and cost of living crisis.

Working with our partners

When the funding for primary schools, through the Healthy Happy Minds pilot, ended in March 2023, we launched a joint campaign with the Association of Art Therapists, to demonstrate public support and to influence the Department of Health in Northern Ireland to rethink their plans to cut the programme.

Building on our campaign we brought together a coalition of NI leading therapy professional bodies, members and providers to call for a long- term sustainable funding for counselling and the full range of evidence based therapeutic interventions in schools.

Specifically, we jointly called for a new Programme of Government Commitment to invest in therapeutic interventions in Northern Ireland’s schools following the re-establishment of the political institutions in Northern Ireland, for the long-term benefit of children, parents and schools.

We demonstrated the support for continued funding of counselling services in schools in our 2023 joint policy report1 that featured the voices of children, parents, teachers and school leaders. The campaign was supported by representatives of all NI political parties.

The campaign continues

We’re meeting with education spokespeople from all parties to build support for this important commitment. We’ve had positive meetings with the Deputy Permanent Secretary from the Department of Education, and representatives of the NI Commissioner for Children and Young People and the Mental Health Champion, who have told us they’re fully behind our campaign.

Steve Mulligan, our Four Nations Lead said: “In the absence of the political institutions we’ve remained fully engaged with our members and services in Northern Ireland and continued to meet party spokespersons, senior officials, key leaders in the mental health sector to champion the critical importance of investing in counselling and psychotherapy for the benefit of communities across Northern Ireland”.


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