Training Programmes

Oral Answers to Questions – in the Northern Ireland Assembly at 2:45 pm on 17th June 2014.

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Photo of Gordon Dunne Gordon Dunne DUP 2:45 pm, 17th June 2014

1. asked the Minister of Culture, Arts and Leisure what assurances she can give that future training programmes, including suicide awareness, will be awarded through open competition to ensure equality of opportunity for providers. (AQO 6383/11-15)

Photo of Carál Ní Chuilín Carál Ní Chuilín Sinn Féin

I thank the Member for his question, and I can confirm that, in line with procurement rules and best practice in delivering value for money, all potential providers with the necessary skills and experience will have the opportunity to offer their services in managing or running training programmes.  That does not apply to the Department's own training needs, which are normally serviced through the Centre for Applied Learning, which is part of DFP.

In the specific case of suicide awareness, an assessment of the results of a pilot study will take place in due course, and I am therefore unable to give a full report at this point on whether and when a training programme will emerge.

Photo of Gordon Dunne Gordon Dunne DUP

I thank the Minister for her answer.  Can she give us a clear assurance that further suicide awareness training programmes will be awarded through competition and not given to your next-door neighbour — next door to your constituency office virtually — as was the case in September 2013 when the Public Initiative for the Prevention of Suicide and Self-Harm (PIPS) was awarded £30,000?

Photo of Carál Ní Chuilín Carál Ní Chuilín Sinn Féin

It is a pity that the Member has chosen to be particularly petty over suicide prevention training programmes.  To be factually correct, my next-door neighbour is not involved in suicide prevention awareness; she is Mrs Kane.

Photo of Gordon Dunne Gordon Dunne DUP

It is on the same block.

Photo of Carál Ní Chuilín Carál Ní Chuilín Sinn Féin

The Níamh Louise Foundation, which is a rural suicide prevention awareness programme, and PIPS were cited because they are working with grass-roots groups on the ground.  It is a pilot programme.  I have seen some of the work on the ground and heard anecdotally across the country, not just in north Belfast, that this should be a success, and I hope that that will be reflected in our report.  Based on that report, and hopefully on the success that it will highlight, future programmes, which I hope to bring forward with the supportive of Executive colleagues, will certainly be put out to tender.

Photo of Gordon Dunne Gordon Dunne DUP

With equality, hopefully.

Photo of Maeve McLaughlin Maeve McLaughlin Sinn Féin

Go raibh maith agat, a LeasCheann Comhairle.  I welcome the Minister and her Department's intervention on a lot of key projects and their impact.  Will the Minister and her Department fund further suicide prevention initiatives, specifically in sport?

Photo of Carál Ní Chuilín Carál Ní Chuilín Sinn Féin

I thank the Member for her question.  It is important that all Executive members do their best to support the Minister of Health, Social Services and Public Safety in tackling suicide and preventing it.  It is everyone's business, and sport, but not exclusively sport, has proven to be one of the best examples of people working with grass-roots groups on the ground to access much-needed services.  If funding is committed to the suicide prevention programme in conjunction with Sport NI and others involved in sport, post-project evaluation will be carried out, and, as a result of that, we will certainly bring forward further bids and further examples of where we need a joined-up approach.  As I tried to say in response to the primary question, anecdotal evidence is that groups were doing that type of work anyway.  It gives value and status to the work that they are doing collectively to try to tackle the scourge of suicide in our communities.

Photo of Pat Ramsey Pat Ramsey Social Democratic and Labour Party

Suicide is the most sensitive and emotive subject matter that any community and family can face.  Is the Minister mindful of the fact that a lot of excellent and shining work is done by the community and voluntary sector across Northern Ireland in helping to prevent suicide and in educating families?  Is she minded to include them in any process and any tendering exercises?

Photo of Carál Ní Chuilín Carál Ní Chuilín Sinn Féin

I totally agree with everything that the Member said.  Indeed, he will be aware through his Foyle constituency that many of the groups work together and do very good work under very strenuous circumstances.  Most of the organisations are made up of members who have been bereaved through suicide or of family members who are working with relatives who are experiencing poor mental health.

So it is imperative that those people are always taken into account in anything that we do.  I hope and anticipate that the results of the pilot survey will tell us what we already know:  that we need to do more of this work with groups on the ground, have a better joined-up approach across government and, most of all, make sure that the people who are furthest away from good access to services are brought right into the middle.

Photo of Jo-Anne Dobson Jo-Anne Dobson UUP

My question follows from your answer to Mr Ramsey and is also on suicide awareness.  The Minister will be aware of the local, often voluntary organisations that play such a pivotal role.  I know the case of MindWise in Banbridge and the work that it does for the community.  What support will the Minister give to small organisations?  What steps will she take to ensure that they will not be disadvantaged in any way in competing for future funding programmes?

Photo of Carál Ní Chuilín Carál Ní Chuilín Sinn Féin

I support what the Member said about the work of MindWise, particularly, as the Member will be aware, its work in libraries and in rural communities.  That work was undertaken through one project based in an urban area and another in a rural area.  The main functions of suicide prevention lie with the Department of Health, Social Services and Public Safety.  As I have said before and will repeat, it is everyone's business to try to do something to tackle the issue and provide opportunities that help to improve mental health and prevent suicide.  I am conscious of the volunteering efforts of the families, in particular, who are involved in those programmes, and of the fact that the problem does not recognise where people live, their postcode, class, gender or politics.  We must all do something to help to prevent suicide in our families and communities.