Northern Ireland

Role of Stormont suicide prevention group under review

The ministerial co-ordination group on suicide prevention has only met 13 times since 2007 Image copyright Press Eye
Image caption The ministerial co-ordination group on suicide prevention has only met 13 times since 2007

A number of Stormont bodies, including one set up to tackle the growing number of suicides in Northern Ireland, are under review.

The ministerial co-ordination group on suicide prevention was formed in 2007.

However, there has been criticism about the number of times it has met since.

The body, which includes several executive ministers, as well as the chief medical officer and the chief executive of the Public Health Agency, has met just 13 times.

However, the executive says its role is in the process of being re-examined.

The role of 15 other, similar bodies, including those set up to tackle domestic and sexual violence, homelessness, mental health and learning disability, is also being scrutinised.

The information is contained in a written Stormont answer to a question by Ulster Unionist MLA Robin Swann.

Mr Swann asked the first and deputy first minister to list the ministerial groups or sub-groups of which they, or junior ministers, are members of and when each group last met.

The reply from the executive office stated: "The requirement for, and the role, remit and membership of, executive sub-groups and sub-committees are under review, following the elections of May 2016 and the restructuring of Northern Ireland civil service departments."

'Fanfare'

Other bodies under consideration include the Ministerial Road Safety Group, the Inter-Ministerial Group on Domestic and Sexual Violence and the Ministerial Group on Mental Health and Learning Disability.

In response, Mr Swann, an MLA for North Antrim, said: "The executive are quick to sound a fanfare when they set up ministerial subgroups.

"They knew restructuring was taking place before May's election, so we need to know when they intend to complete their review and return to regular meetings of all the groups. There are some incredibly serious issues here that cannot be left on the shelf."

In a statement, the Department of Health said the next meeting is planned for March/April 2017.

It added: "Suicide prevention remains a priority area for the Department of Health, given the high rates of suicide in the north of Ireland.

"There is no intention by this department to discontinue this group. The draft Protect Life 2 Strategy, which has just closed for public consultation, gives a commitment to retaining this group to provide cross departmental oversight and leadership on suicide prevention."

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