Press Release: for immediate release 30.04.2021

Building on what is strong: Health North Belfast looks to the Future

Healthy North Belfast: Looking to the Future report is released today (30 April 2021) by the three elected representatives for the area – Paula Bradley MLA, Nichola Mallon MLA and Carál Ní Chuilín MLA.

The report findings and recommendations are based on the Appreciative Inquiry initiated in late 2018. This project had residents’ voices at its heart, ensuring they shaped the future of their local area by focusing on doing more of what is already working.

Welcoming the report, First Minister Arlene Foster commented “This is an important report which reflects the voices and experiences of those living in North Belfast. It sets out clearly the priorities for action here, and in communities right across Northern Ireland, to ensure the physical and mental well-being of all generations.

“I commend all of those who have been involved in this work, but I particularly thank the residents for their collaborative approach with agencies, partners and elected representatives to co-design this rich resource which will be invaluable in shaping services and resources in the area.”

Deputy First Minister Michelle O’Neill said: “This unique process and report is an example of how people can create innovative solutions to some of the most complex difficulties we face as a society.  I want to thank everyone involved in the partnership effort to produce the report – the elected representatives and all those in the community who have worked collectively for the benefit of North Belfast and its people. Their shared commitment to improving lives is reflected in the report and I look forward to seeing how the initiative progresses.

Reflecting on the inquiry, Independent Facilitator Mary Black said “Healthy North Belfast is about working together to improve health and wellbeing of everyone in North Belfast. We had events in every ward across North Belfast when people told us what was important to them and what sort of future they wanted. North Belfast is a beautiful, dynamic, and warm-hearted part of the city. It is a great place to live with fantastic potential, potential that we want to realise.”

When it comes to health and wellbeing, people talked about the importance of physical activity as a means of creating social bonds and the link between food, happiness and health. North Belfast’s distinctive and attractive environment was source of pride. Importantly, people wanted to know more about groups, activities and facilities in the area and how they could get involved.

In advance of the roundtable meeting with Ministers and Departments to share the report findings, Paula Bradley MLA said “Healthy North Belfast was an ambitious appreciative inquiry that has involved contributions from hundreds of community, voluntary organisations and statutory agencies, alongside over 1,000 residents, focusing on the health and wellbeing of people and communities across the constituency. This ground-breaking report reflects those conversations and insights from this great part of Belfast.”

Nichola Mallon MLA said “The Healthy North Belfast Appreciative Inquiry is the first of its kind for this city and the north. For the last two and a half years people and communities have been thinking and talking about what makes them healthy and happy. Even before COVID -19 people were concerned about loneliness and mental health and really valued social connections. This report sets out a blueprint for change, highlighting the key issues which people and partners have identified as being critical to improving lives and aspirations in North Belfast.”

Carál Ní Chuilín MLA said “North Belfast has people and places to be proud of, and we wanted to learn more about these resources. The experience of the pandemic has brought a renewed focus and value to the concept of ‘community’ and the central importance of relationships. The community and agencies’ response in the face of this latest threat has been inspiring and gives us even more reason to work together to improve health, wellbeing and tackle poverty and deprivation in North Belfast.”

Irene Sherry Lead Executive of Healthy North Belfast said: “As promised at the start of this journey in late 2018, we focused on doing more of what residents told us is already working.  I want to thank everyone who gave their time to the Appreciative Inquiry. I particularly want to acknowledge the support and encouragement of the three local MLAs.

“We now have the opportunity to apply new ways of working and thinking to our shared challenges in North Belfast and I look forward to working with our elected representatives and Executive Ministers to implement the recommendations set out in this report.”

“Healthy North Belfast will be sharing the report with people, communities and partners across North Belfast over the next number of months. Not only will this ensure that the recommendations reflect the conversations that took place, it will also allow residents and communities to discuss the experience of the last year and allow Healthy North Belfast to test the recommendations in light of COVID-19.

Notes to Editors:

The Appreciative Inquiry methodology was used to identify the strengths in the area using a ‘whole systems’ discovery approach to map the North Belfast parliamentary area. The process also captured the demography and statistical trends relating to physical and mental health of the population, analysis of relevant policies, systems, frameworks, and local initiatives as well as providing a geographic mapping of the current service provision.

The next stage in the Appreciative Inquiry process was to capture the ‘dreams’ of local residents based on what matters to them and what they valued in their area. To do this they were asked two critical questions:

  1. What works well in North Belfast?
  2. What can be done to make it better?

Working groups were established which included service providers, government officials, decision makers and local residents that worked together to consider and advise on the key actions needed to meet peoples’ dreams.  In March 2020 six action plans, each one relating to each of the six themes were drafted, and brought together in this report, setting out a number of areas for action.

Healthy North Belfast secured the support of major government, health and academic agencies and is actively supported by DUP, SF and SDLP North Belfast MLAs.

Ashton Community Trust facilitated the multi-agency task group that drove the project and included: North Belfast residents, Lighthouse, NICVA, Ulster University, Belfast Healthy Cities, PHA, PSNI, Housing Executive, Department of Justice, Strategic Investment Board, Department of Health, Belfast City Council, Victims & Survivors Service, Department for Communities, Department of Education and the Health and Social Care Board and Belfast Health and Social Care Trust.

For more information please contact: Gráinne Walsh on 079 2016 5600 or grainne@stratagem-ni.com