Agenda and minutes

Contact: Mrs Sara Steele, Democratic Services Officer  90320202 x6301

No. Item




Apologies were reported on behalf of Councillors Cobain and Newton.


Declarations of Interest


            No Declarations of Interest were recorded.



Introduction and Purpose of Meeting


            The Committee was advised that representatives from the Belfast Youth Forum were in attendance to provide an update in relation to the work of the Belfast Youth Forum.


            The Chairperson, on behalf of the Committee, welcomed the representatives to the meeting.


            The Committee was reminded that, at its meeting on 20th October, it had agreed that representatives from the Department of Health (DoH), Department of Education (DoE) and the Public Health Agency would be invited to the next meeting to discuss both the ‘Any Use?’ Relationship and Sexual Education Campaign and report and the ‘Elephant in the Room’ mental Health Campaign and report and accordingly their representatives were welcomed to the meeting.


            The Committee noted correspondence received from the Permanent Secretary of the DoH Mr. Richard Pengelly who unfortunately was unable to attend the meeting.


            They noted that a  brief update would also be given on the current BYF recruitment drive and on the National Children’s Bureau  (NCB) Mental Health Charter for Children and Young People.





Restricted Items


            At the request of an external contributor that their submission to the meeting was not recorded, the live feed and recording of the meeting was paused for the next two agenda items.


      Resolved – That the Committee agrees to exclude the members of the Press and public from the meeting during these presentations.



'Any Use' Relationship & Sexuality Education (RSE) campaign pdf icon PDF 315 KB

Additional documents:


            At the previous joint meetings held in January and October 2020, the BYF had presented its piece of research to the Elected Members of the People and Communities Committee on Relationship and Sexual Education (RSE).  This was entitled ‘Any Use?’


            The Youth Forum representatives advised that the aim of the report was to find out young people’s opinions on RSE in Belfast; how useful young people found their current RSE; and if young people understood their rights in relation to RSE.


            The research had been undertaken in conjunction with the QUB Centre for Children’s Rights and Common Youth (a representative was in attendance at the meeting) who had helped develop an online survey, designed survey questions, collected surveys from young people and analysed the findings. 771 young people had taken part in the survey and some of the main findings included the following:


            With regard to the right to receive RSE:


·        72% of young people said they knew they had a right to receive RSE in school;

·        52% of young people said they felt their right to RSE was not being met;

·        Only 23% felt that adults trusted young people to make their own choices about relationships and sex;

·        The proportion of 14 – 16 year olds saying their right was met (56%) was significantly higher than the proportion of those 17 or over saying this (43%); and

·        58% felt that adults did not trust them and one in five (20%) said they did not know if adults trusted them in this regard.


            The report then highlighted how young people described their RSE and, overall, negative word associations dominated those answers with the four most common being basic, unhelpful, useless and bias.


            With regard to learning about sexual relationships, the three most popular sources from which young people said they learned about relationships and sex were through friends and peers (62%); social media (55%); and lessons in school (54%).


            The survey had then asked a range of questions about RSE in schools and how useful it was.  The vast majority of young people (86%) felt that school was the best place to receive RSE, yet only 60% of respondents said that this actually occurred.  In relation to how useful their RSE in school was, 66% of young people felt that the information they received was either “not very useful” or “not useful at all”, with only 10% saying that they thought the information they received was “very useful”.  It highlighted through which subjects RSE was taught in schools and questioned how the young people felt RSE should be delivered in schools and who should deliver it, with the most commonly given response being a qualified RSE teacher.  The survey also sought views on what should be taught to young people in RSE, with the most popular subject young people wanted to learn about was personal relationships.  Over half of the respondents had felt that young people and should start to be taught about personal relationships when they were between 11  ...  view the full minutes text for item 4a


'Elephant in the Room' (EITR) Mental Health Campaign


            Members of the Youth Forum presented their “Elephant in the Room Campaign”, a report which explored young people’s awareness of mental health in Northern Ireland.


            The Committee was advised that, in July 2016, the United Nations Committee on the Rights of the Child had recommended that the Northern Ireland Government invest heavily in children and young people’s mental health services.  Consequently, in October 2016, the Belfast Youth Forum, alongside members from Northern Ireland Youth Forum and the Children’s Law Centre, had organised an event where over 100 young people had expressed their frustrations at the lack of mental health education and support services available in NI and called for the UN’s recommendation to be fully implemented by the NI Government.


            In 2017 between members of Belfast Youth Forum and Northern Ireland Youth Forum a Youth Mental Health Committee had been established.  The aim of the Mental Health Committee had been to explore issues connected to mental health and young people and to ensure that as many young people as possible had a meaningful say in shaping the future of mental health education and support services.  This research would eventually take the form of the ‘Elephant in the Room’ report.


            The Members noted that the aim was to establish what young people in NI thought and knew about mental health, in particular:


·        Where young people got their information about mental health and how they rated it;

·        Where young people liked to go to receive mental health information and support;

·        How young people viewed mental health and how it impacted on their ability to speak about it;

·        What actions they felt that the government should take to promote positive mental health and well-being in society.


            The representative advised that a survey had been developed and 1,117 young people had responded, as well as responses from four focus groups across Northern Ireland. The focus groups had a total of 151 young people who had participated.


            He reported that the findings of the research had then been broken down in to three broad themes, as follows:


·        Stigma – young people indicated that there was a huge negative stigma attached to mental health which in turn led to a “culture of silence”, where young people were afraid to talk about mental health issues;

·        Safe Spaces – 76% of survey respondents stated that young people were afraid to talk about mental health and there was a lack of safe spaces available to talk about it.  The overall view from young people was that on-line was a good place to access mental health information, but there was issues with being able to separate fact from fiction.  In addition, the young people had identified social media as having a negative impact; and

·        Schools and Information – according to young people, the three most common places they would source information about mental health were on-line (59%), a family member (48%) and friends (45%).  However, young people said the problem was that the quality of the information was inconsistent and  ...  view the full minutes text for item 4b


Mental Health Toolkit - Ciara McBratney


            The representative advised the Members of the creation and imminent online launch of the ‘Heads Up’ mental health advocacy toolkit which had been designed in partnership between BYF, NIYF and Northern Ireland Commissioner for Children and Young People (NICCY).  She explained that the toolkit had been designed to help and support young people to take action and campaign on local mental health issues.  It was predominantly for young people and youth groups who wanted to start their own mental health campaign and projects in their community and would give young people the skills and information to take action around mental health in the community. 


            The Committee noted that the Heads Up -Toolkit was due to be launched online on Thursday, 18th February.  



Belfast Youth Forum - Recruitment Update


            The Committee was reminded that, at the August 2020 meeting of the People and Communities meeting, it had been agreed, as a result of the Covid-19 pandemic and the limitations that the environment had presented for positive active engagement with young people, schools and service providers that the term of the existing BYF members be extended for another year.


            Previously, at the January 2020 Special People and Communities Committee meeting, it had been agreed to amend the BYF recruitment process.  It would now begin in September and end in October in line with the academic year, as the previous recruitment timeframe had been during April and May, which had conflicted with the exam season for the BYF members.


            Following discussion at the August 2020 People and Communities Committee, it had been agreed that any current vacant places within the BYF would be filled with the intention of using targeted recruitment to address any gaps in relation to communities which were currently underrepresented in the Forum.  In response to this, a limited recruitment drive was currently ongoing throughout December 2020 and January 2021 to fill the 10 vacant places within the Youth Forum.  Applications were open to everyone, however the recruitment drive was being promoted in specific areas of Belfast and with specific groups which were under represented through various means such as social media, engagement with Elected Member, engagement with Education Authority Youth Service, promotion through existing area BCC Area Support staff and engagement with existing community contacts.





NCB Mental Health Charter for Children and Young People


            The Committee was advised that the National Children’s Bureau had been working on the development of a children and young person’s mental health charter.  The Members were asked to note that Belfast City Council had been involved in this as part of a project stakeholder group and that the Belfast Youth Forum had been referenced within it alongside NI Youth Forum, in relation to the Elephant in the Room report. 


            The Charter was due to be launched on 4th February and further updates on it would be presented at the next Joint Committee.





Date of Next Meeting


            The Committee noted that the next Special Joint meeting was scheduled to be held on Tuesday, 22nd June at 5.15 p.m.