Series 7 – old

2017-18 KESS Programme

The Assembly’s Research and Information Service (RaISe) jointly delivers KESS with the Queen’s University of Belfast (QUB – co-founder 2011), Ulster University (Ulster – 2012) and The Open University (OU – 2013).  It is the first of its kind in the United Kingdom, formally partnering a legislative arm of government – the Assembly – with academia.

Aiming to promote evidence-informed policy and law-making, KESS provides a forum in which academics present their research findings in a straightforward format, on issues that are relevant to governance in Northern Ireland.  It seeks to bring those findings to the attention of key participants and decision-makers, including MLAs, the wider public sector and others, in a “safe space” that encourages discussion, fosters improved understanding and seeks to enable opportunities for more in-depth engagement in future.

KESS does not support or promote perspectives or messages stated at seminars or in policy briefings or PowerPoint presentations.  The opportunity to apply to present at KESS is open to all academics and researchers employed by a university partner.  When the call is open, it is promoted through the university partners’ internal communication channels and social media.  Contributions from all perspectives are encouraged.  All presentations are required to be independent, evidence-informed, robust and reliable, as well as relevant to policy and law-making relating to Northern Ireland.

Embedded in the KESS model are: the local universities via their academics; Assembly committees via their Chairpersons; the Assembly’s RaISe via its Researchers; and, a broad spectrum of attendees.  As in the past, when there is an absence of Assembly Committee Chairs due to political circumstances, the KESS model is adapted; with the Researcher delivering the Welcome and the Opening Remarks.  Attendees may include: MLAs and their staff; political party staff; Assembly and Departmental officials; others from the public and private sectors; academics; voluntary and community groups; and, members of the public.

Seminars are free and are held on Wednesdays, normally from October through June.  (When necessary, due to political circumstances, KESS may start its annual programme later in the year.)  Each seminar starts at 1.30pm in Parliament Buildings, located on Stormont Estate.

When attending KESS, please note that Parliament Buildings is a public building, and there may be photography, filming and recording in its public spaces.  Only the academics presenting at KESS are filmed when making their presentations.  Reserved seating can be provided away from the camera when requested by attendees.

Most seminars cover a range of themes under one broad heading – see programme for relevant dates and timings. On arrival, delegates receive a seminar pack that includes the academics’ policy briefings and PowerPoint presentations, amongst other information.

Tea/coffee is provided following presentations and discussion. Free parking is available to all. Kindly allow time to pass through Assembly Security upon entry to Parliament Buildings; and ensure that you specify your special needs (for example, wheelchair accessibility) when registering. The Assembly is committed to fulfilling its equality-related roles and responsibilities and will take reasonable efforts to meet requests relating to them.

If you wish to reserve your place at a seminar, please register at:

Thanks for supporting KESS.


2017-18 Programme  

Date Seminar Theme
25 October 2017 Informing NI Brexit Considerations
15 November 2017 Parity of Esteem – A Citizens’ Enquiry Model
29 November 2017 Language in Education
06 December 2017 Regulation and Accountability of NI’s Charity Sector
17 January 2018 Outcomes Based Accountability – A Critical Perspective
31 January 2018 Using Administrative Data to Inform Policy
07 February 2018 Mental Health: Understanding and Supporting People
14 February 2018 Obesity: Key Considerations
28 February 2018 People and Surroundings – Impacts of Sound
14 March 2018 Using Technology in Social Care
21 March 2018 Parents/Mothers and Children
18 April 2018 Dealing with The Past – Key Themes
25 April 2018 Learning from New Technology
09 May 2018 Justice – Civil and Criminal Issues of Interest
30 May 2018 Business of Sport
06 June 2018 Social Welfare Issues Relating to Poverty
20 June 2018 Enabling Society Through Interaction


1.30pm – RaISe – Welcome and Opening Remarks

1.45pm – Dr Leslie Budd (OU) – Making sense of Brexit’s challenges to Economic Citizenship

Managing the process of the United Kingdom (UK) exiting from the European Union (EU) for Northern Ireland (NI) is the most complex and challenging one of all the UK territories. It is the only part of the UK with a contiguous border with another EU Member State that is also a member of the Eurozone. The benefits include: an all island of Ireland single market; the second largest market for NI trade; close cross-border Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) and economic co-operation; and, a common travel area. If the NI economy is not to be damaged and its economic citizenship and governance undermined permanently, a bespoke Brexit agreement may be an imperative. This presentation analyses the alternative scenarios as club goods and proposes the most efficacious one for NI.

It first analyses the performance of the NI economy and identifies the likely impacts of Brexit in the medium-term. Second, it refers to more spatially distributed key sectors to exemplify the potential consequences of Brexit for the whole of the island of Ireland. Third, it examines how the border between the two parts of the island of Ireland could become socio-economic beyond a physical one. Finally, it assesses how economic citizenship could be altered across the whole island of Ireland and what forms could emerge and their spatial settings.

In this presentation, “economic citizenship” is defined as the inclusion of citizens in the allocation, distribution and stabilisation of resources, to enhance their socio-economic welfare and well-being in the territories they inhabit and shape.  The presentation concludes speculating on the types of governance arrangements that potentially would need to be instituted in order to sustain economic citizenship for both parts of the island of Ireland. [Policy Briefing] [Presentation] [Video]

2.05pm – Prof Rory O’Connell (Ulster) and Prof Colin Harvey (QUB) –  Brexit and Northern Ireland: The Constitutional, Conflict Transformation, Human Rights and Equality Consequences (BrexitLawNI)

The BrexitLawNI project is a collaborative project funded by the Economic and Social Research Council.  It seeks to examine the constitutional, conflict transformation, human rights and equality consequences of Brexit.  It particularly focuses on six key issues: the Northern Ireland peace process; North-South relations; border controls and free movement in and between Northern Ireland, the Republic of Ireland and Britain; xenophobia and racism in Northern Ireland; the impact on socio-economic rights; and the wider human rights and equality issues. The project aims to disentangle the many complex questions that have arisen, including the significant legal and constitutional consequences that demand considered reflection.  This presentation will draw on preliminary findings of this project, identifying the legal elements of Brexit with regard to Northern Ireland, and present key apparent related policy and practice implications in a user-friendly manner. [Policy Briefing] [Presentation] [Video]

2.25pm – Dr Anne Smith (Ulster) and Prof Colin Harvey (QUB) – The Northern Ireland Bill of Rights in the Context of Brexit

This presentation focuses on an independent funded project (Joseph Rowntree Charitable Trust) that seeks to address the issue of a Bill of Rights for Northern Ireland in the context of Brexit.

A Bill of Rights for Northern Ireland remains part of the unfinished work of the Good Friday/Belfast Agreement. In response to its mandate under the Belfast/Good Friday Agreement, the Northern Ireland Human Rights Commission (NIHRC) delivered the advice on a Bill of Rights to the British Government in 2008. The following year, in 2009, the Northern Ireland Office (NIO) responded to this advice by publishing its consultation document. Since 2009 there has been little further discussion between the parties and the government on this specific issue, although it does appear to have re-emerged in the current negotiating process.

This presentation focuses on the preliminary findings of our research project, which includes drafting a model Bill of Rights and holding events to enable key stakeholders to contribute to the project. To respect the remit and context, the model Bill will be based on the NIHRC’s advice, taking the form of Westminster legislation in accordance with the Good Friday/Belfast Agreement.  Drawing upon preliminary findings which are evidence-based, reliable and accessible, this presentation highlights how this work could assist in unlocking the current political deadlock on this issue. It discusses a model Bill that respects the particular circumstances of this jurisdiction as one way to ensure that human rights remain central to the peace process.  Such a Bill would not only strengthen accountability but also further establish good governance and advance the rule of law. This is particularly relevant for Northern Ireland where a Bill of Rights could provide a legal framework in relation to contentious rights issues. [Policy Briefing] [Presentation] [Video]

2.45pm – Discussion
3.15pm – RaISe – Closing Remarks
3.20pm – Networking and Refreshments


1.30pm – RaISe – Welcome and Opening Remarks

1.45pm – Prof Simon Lee (OU) – Parity of Esteem Re-visited & Re-imagined

The concept of “parity of esteem” is central to diverse constitutional, political, legal and socio-economic narratives of Northern Ireland and of these islands.

In 1994, Professor Simon Lee analysed the history and philosophical underpinning of “parity of esteem” in a collection of essays in honour of Reverend Eric Gallagher, tracing the history of its use by politicians in Northern Ireland. This seminar returns to this theme. Sometimes the concept is used in relation to politicians in Westminster or Dublin: he asks what it means to be an honest broker or “rigorously impartial” in the context of Northern Ireland as the twentieth anniversary of the Good Friday Agreement approaches? Sometimes, the demand is that politicians or public bodies in Northern Ireland should show ‘parity of esteem’ in relation to communities or groups in the context of, for example, parades or languages or the allocation of resources.

But before addressing contemporary issues in Northern Ireland, the presentation considers how the concept has been used in other jurisdictions in discussions about such matters as different types of education and the provision and status of physical and mental health services.

Thereafter the presentation asserts that it is time to revisit and reimagine “parity of esteem”. It draws on two neglected political satires: The Rise of the Meritocracy by Michael Young (1958) and Facial Justice by L P Hartley (1960). The latter begins: “In the not very distant future, after the Third World War, Justice had made great strides. Legal Justice, Economic Justice, Social Justice, and many other forms of justice, of which we do not even know the names, had been attained; but there still remained spheres of human relationship and activity in which Justice did not reign.”

While doing so, this presentation seeks to answer a series of related questions. What exactly is ‘esteem’? Why should we bother with it? How do we demonstrate it? How can we develop ‘parity’ of esteem? [Policy Briefing] [Presentation] [Video]

2.05pm – Discussion
2.35pm – RaISe – Closing Remarks
2.40pm – Networking and Refreshments


1.30pm – RaISe – Welcome and Opening Remarks

1.45pm – Dr Sharon Jones (Stranmillis University College) – Languages in Primary Schools in Northern Ireland

The current deficit in skills in modern languages is economically detrimental (Foreman-Peck and Wang, 2013), not least to the growth of the export base (Northern Ireland Chamber of Commerce, 2014). Evidence suggests that learning a modern language should begin at primary school (Lenneberg, 1967; Jones and Coffey, 2006) as this increases self-esteem, enthusiasm, and positive attitudes to later learning (Hawkins, 1974, 1999; DfES, 2002; Jones and Coffey, 2013). As Northern Ireland’s primary schools become increasingly multicultural (Kernaghan, 2015), intercultural education facilitated by modern language learning is increasingly relevant (Richardson and Gallagher, 2011; Purdy and Ferguson, 2012; Jones, 2015), addressing racial prejudice early (Sharpe, 2001, p. 35). While primary school children in Scotland and England will learn at least one additional language, Northern Ireland has “the shortest period of compulsory foreign language learning in Europe” (British Council, 2015). This presentation draws on recent research into current practice and teacher and pupil views in primary schools across Northern Ireland (Jones et al, 2016), to conclude that foreign language learning should be made a statutory part of the Northern Ireland Curriculum, thus affording the opportunities of modern language learning to our young people, and its economic and cultural benefits to our region. [Policy Briefing] [Presentation] [Video]

2.05pm – Mr Ian Collen (QUB) – Transition from Primary Language Programmes to Post-Primary Language Provision

As in England, entries for GCSE and A-level languages in Northern Ireland have declined annually since 2004 (CCEA/JCQ). To redress this decline, languages are now compulsory from Primary 5 to Primary 7 in England. In Scotland, two languages will be compulsory at primary level from 2020. This has led to a focus in educational research on transition in modern languages (Chambers, 2014; Courtney, 2014). In Northern Ireland, there is a patchwork of schools offering various modern languages at primary level (Purdy, Siberry & Beale, 2010), but recent research (Collen, McKendry & Henderson, 2016) indicates that: primary pupils perceive modern languages to have a low status; there is no evidence of effective transition in modern languages between primary and post-primary schools; and, there is a need to make language learning statutory at primary level, if our pupils are to be afforded the same opportunities as pupils in England and Scotland, and be prepared to compete in a globalised employment market.

This presentation draws on recent research into models of delivery of primary languages, taking cognisance of the need for effective transition to post-primary education, and suggests ways in which statutory modern languages should be introduced in Northern Ireland. [Policy Briefing] [Presentation] [Video]

2.25pm – Prof Kieron Sheehy (OU) – Inclusive Practice through Keyword Signing – Addressing barriers to accessible classrooms

This presentation sets out evidence that having an accessible communicative environment is the core of inclusive educational practice, facilitating positive outcomes for diverse groups of learners (Sheehy et al. 2009). One effective communicate approach is keyword signing (KWS), which typically samples the manual signs of a country’s Deaf community. For example, British Sign Language is the basis of the Makaton vocabulary used in Northern Ireland. KWS signs accompany only the key word(s) in spoken sentences and so provides sign-supported communication, rather than a sign language. There is extensive evidence of the educational and social benefits to support using KWS. It has also been seen as a potential way to give some children a voice  within the criminal justice and safeguarding system (Bunting et al. 2015), addressing the mental health needs of people with learning difficulties (Devine & Taggart 2008) and a  professional training need for  school staff (McConkey & Abbott 2011). However, there are significant barriers which impede its use in schools and communities.  This presentation illustrates the nature of these barriers through research undertaken to develop KWS Signalong Indonesia (Sheehy & Budiyanto 2014). It discusses how these difficult barriers could be tackled and the challenges this presents for policy makers with an inclusive agenda. [Policy Briefing] [Presentation] [Video]

2.45pm – Discussion
3.15pm – RaISe – Closing Remarks
3.20pm – Networking and Refreshments


1.30pm – RaISe – Welcome and Opening Remarks

1.45pm – Prof Ciaran Connolly, Prof Noel Hyndman and Dr Mariannunziata Liguori (QUB) – The Charity Sector in NI: The Importance of Regulation, Accountability and Trust

The charity sector is significant socially and economically, with the activities of charities being pervasive, increasingly in the joint provision of government services. They exist in most societies and are facilitated through various administrative frameworks and major tax concessions. The sector in the United Kingdom is vast and growing (200,000 registered charities, 6,000 plus in Northern Ireland – NI; total annual income £80 billion). Recent scandals of various hues have undermined trust in charities. Albeit these scandals are isolated, their impact is massive in terms of the sector.  The strength of the charity sector comes from the value society places on the social capital that it generates. A key argument is that good regulation underpins good accountability, good accountability supports the building of trust, and trust is essential to ensure the continuing health of the sector (including its ability to access funding). While charity regulators have been operating elsewhere in the UK for some time, a NI regulator (Charity Commission for Northern Ireland – CCNI) was only established in 2009. Its objectives are to ensure that charities in NI are meeting their legal requirements, and to work with charity trustees to put things right if they go wrong.Drawing on this recent research, to be published in a forthcoming book in 2017, this presentation explores the importance of regulation and good accountability processes. It examines how trust can be built through appropriate accountability mechanisms.

Given the relatively recent establishment of CCNI, and the ongoing outworking of its role, examination of these issues is vital to supporting the health and growth of the charity sector, and to formulating policy in this area. [Policy Briefing] [Presentation] [Video]

2.05pm – Discussion
2.35pm – RaISe – Closing Remarks
2.40pm – Networking and Refreshments


1.30pm – RaISe – Welcome and Opening Remarks

1.45pm – Prof Derek Birrell and Prof Ann Marie Gray (Ulster) – The Problems with Outcome Based Accountability

A relatively new and common feature of the devolved administrations in the UK has been the emergence of outcome based frameworks as key components of their policy making processes. An outcome based approach was signalled by the Northern Ireland Government in 2015 as an ambitious approach which would be applied to the new Northern Ireland Programme for Government. The pressure for such an approach originated as a form of policy copying from Scotland and from lobbying by Carnegie UK and some consultancy bodies for the promotion of a wellbeing framework to inform a programme for government (Carnegie UK, 2013).  An attraction of an outcomes based approach has been cited as the apparent offer of a simple solution to complex problems, reducing the need for detailed policy analysis to a list of simple statistics or indicators.  Outcomes based accountability methodology is presented as a disciplined and uniform approach, applicable at all levels from local to national. The devolved administrations have tended to use the outcome based approaches as a long term projection of government achievement. There is an obvious attraction for governments in being able to set more time for producing achievements, for postponing difficult decisions and avoiding political conflict.  An alleged benefit of outcomes based accountability is the potential for the alignment of outcomes, linking social, economic and environmental aspects and avoiding government departments and public bodies acting in silos.

The trend for outcome based frameworks has received comparatively little analysis or comment in academic work on devolved policy making and governance to date.  This presentation examines the forms of outcomes based approaches used and the conceptual difficulties and validity associated with the use of these frameworks.  It asks if such outcomes based approaches attempt to reduce policy making to a technical and rational problem solving exercise (Bovaird, 2014) with little recognition that indicators reflect an ethical or political framing process.  It presents a critical assessment on the application and impact of outcomes based frameworks in the three devolved administrations, looking at why particular indicators are selected to assess progress towards outcomes, the lack of targets for interim outcomes, how the data will be used to inform policy formulation and the lack of robust evidence for success of OBA in improving services. [Policy Briefing] [Presentation]  [Video]

2.05pm – Discussion
2.35pm – RaISe – Closing Remarks
2.40pm – Networking and Refreshments


1.30pm – RaISe – Welcome and Opening Remarks

1.45pm – Prof Gillian Robinson, Prof Helen Dolk, Dr Joanne Given and Ms Lizanne Dowds (Ulster) – Public attitudes to data sharing in Northern Ireland

Government and other organisations gather information about people under assumptions that the data will remain confidential and not be passed on to any other organisations. Recent debate has focused on data linkage and the great potential that it could have for public good. Effective sharing and linking of medical and other social data is potentially a game-changer in advances in health and social wellbeing. However, the conflict between this clear potential, and the importance of protecting individual privacy of the public is an ongoing issue. This presentation focuses on this topic with a particular focus on health data in a local context. It will discuss the results of a survey on public attitudes to data sharing that was carried out as a part of the 2015 Northern Ireland Life and Times Survey (NILT).  As well as providing a valuable insight into local public opinions on such an important issue, this piece of research provides a baseline of public attitudes to data sharing that can be reassessed regularly. The findings of this local research can inform policy on data sharing between government departments and for research. and feed into the wider public debate on the issue of data sharing. [Policy Briefing] [Presentation] [Video]

2.05pm – Dr Saul M. Golden and Mr Lindesay Dawe (Ulster) – A Fresh Look at Community Engagement and Regeneration: Toward Good Practice and Innovative Policy in Northern Ireland

The Fresh Start Agreement set out three key aims for public consultation and engagement: To enhance decision-making; to improve the acceptability of decisions reached; to build capacity internally and externally for improved relationships and stakeholder input to political processes. These aims remain relevant to current policy debates as a framework to foster more effective public/stakeholder engagement on larger regeneration initiatives.  This evidence-based presentation will examine current policies along with proposed exemplar strategies for good practice and innovative on-the-ground approaches to community engagement for urban renewal. It presents data gathered from a 2016 symposium carried out by Belfast School of Architecture and Urban Research Lab, along with anonymous survey feedback from public-private stakeholder events held in Belfast between 2012-2017. The symposium brought academics together with statutory and third sector representatives to appraise tools and processes that inform development policy for all stakeholders concerned with urban and rural regeneration across Northern Ireland. The research provides an insight into deliberations on policy and skills capacity to addresses consultation fatigue through good decision-making practice and more effective policy implementation. Outcomes include an appraisal of models and tools that can inform policy to better articulate community need for regeneration projects, and to better integrate government and other agencies in community engagement and planning processes. [Policy Briefing] [Presentation] [Video]

2.25pm – Dr Markus Ketola and Dr Ciaran Hughes (Ulster) – Independence of the Voluntary, Community and Social Enterprise Sector in Northern Ireland: Lessons for government-voluntary sector relations

This presentation presents findings from new research that investigates the independence of voluntary, community and social enterprise sector (VCSE) in Northern Ireland. Commissioned by the Building Change Trust, the research draws on survey results, interviews and focus groups with respondents from both the voluntary sector and government, offering an insight into how the dynamics of the relationship between government and the VSCE sector impact on the sector’s independence of voice, purpose and action. The data presents a complex and nuanced picture that outlines a number of tensions between the VSCE sector and government that help us better understand the challenges to independence. The aims of the presentation are twofold: first, to offer insights to the constantly evolving relationship between government and the sector; and second, to suggest how to develop the relationship further in ways that continue to support the independence of the VSCE sector. [Policy Briefing] [Presentation] [Video]

2.45pm – Discussion
3.15pm – RaISe – Closing Remarks
3.20pm – Networking and Refreshments


1.30pm – RaISe – Welcome and Opening Remarks

1.45pm – Prof Sarah Edge (Ulster), Dr Helen Jackson (Ulster) & Dr Caroline O’Sullivan (DKIT) – Young People Mental Health and Modern Media

This presentation is based on research that used both quantitative and qualitative methodologies to identify the rise in bullying, anxiety, body image and mental health issues for young people within the UK and Ireland, and uses evidence from the findings of #StatusOfMind, May 2017 report commissioned by The Royal Society for Public Health; the Irish Charity Reachout April 2017 report; and the IPPR thinktank findings on the significant increase in suicide rates in UK students. Such research raised significant concerns about the behaviours of young people using social network sites (e.g. Facebook, SnapChat) and the inter-related emotional affects. In particular, it presents research on the sexualisation of young women in popular film in the 1990s, examining how these representations have impacted on how young women see themselves and how they are treated by others. It also introduces the recent initiative BSBH – a programme designed to increase positive representations of women in local news media.

Thereafter it examines the impact of “Reality TV” on the identity formation, perceptions of relationships and of self on teenagers, particularly in the context of the ubiquity and online reach of this content.

It then moves on to present the findings of a recent research project that uses the ‘selfie’ as a means of examining sociological knowledge and feelings. The Self[ie] Reflexive Project explores the processes of self–reflection created by novel forms of convergence, to identify habitual behaviours in young people, and to map the interconnected and competing personal and emotional issues that dominate these behaviours.

Throughout this presentation, the speakers will identify for policy makers the tools required to delve underneath the more negative statistical findings in order to better inform and develop strategies that empower young people via media literacy awareness, and enable them to move beyond personal feelings to collective empowered understanding.  [Policy Briefing] [Presentation] [Video]

2.05pm – Dr Gavin Davidson, Dr Berni Kelly and Dr Lorna Montgomery (QUB) – Supported decision making – experiences, approaches and preferences

Making decisions about your own life is a key aspect of independence, freedom and human rights. Mental health law has previously allowed compulsory intervention even when a person has the decision making ability to decline intervention. This discriminates against those with mental health problems and intellectual disabilities. In May 2016 the Mental Capacity Act (Northern Ireland) became statutory law, although may not be implemented until 2020. In contrast to other countries this law will replace rather than be in parallel to a mental health law. This is a unique and progressive development which seeks to address the discrimination of separate mental health law. A core principle of the new Act is that people are “not to be treated as unable to make a decision…unless all practicable help and support to enable the person to make a decision about the matter have been given without success” (Article 1(4)).

There are people who, without support, would be assessed as incapable of making certain decisions but with the appropriate support are capable of making those decisions, and so to not provide that support infringes their rights, undermines their autonomy and reinforces their exclusion from society. There is very limited research evidence available about people’s experience of the range of approaches provided to support decision-making; what approaches work for whom; and what people’s preferences are for support. This evidence is urgently needed to inform the Code of Practice for the new Act and the wider implementation process.

This presentation provides a summary of findings from a research project which explored how people have, or have not been, supported to make their own decisions. It was funded by Disability Research on Independent Living and Learning (DRILL) and used a coproduction approach between disabled people, Praxis, Mencap and Queen’s. The project involved peer researchers interviewing 20 people with mental health problems and 20 people with intellectual disabilities, to gain an in-depth understanding of their experiences of supported decision-making and their preferences and ideas for how decision-making should be supported in the new legal framework. [Policy Briefing] [Presentation] [Video]

2.25pm – Prof Siobhan O’Neill, Ms Margaret McLafferty, Ms Coral Lapsley and Dr Elaine Murray (Ulster) – Mental health, self-harm and suicide in university students in Northern Ireland

Suicidal behaviour and mental health problems are increasingly common among college students and the rates appear to be increasing globally.  The Ulster University Student Wellbeing Study, was conducted as part of the WHO World Mental Health Surveys International College Student Project initiative. The study assessed psychopathology and associated risk and protective factors in 739 first year students and the findings revealed high prevalence rates of mental health and substance disorders, ADHD and suicidal behaviour, with more than half of new undergraduate students reporting any lifetime disorder. Co-morbidity was common with almost a fifth of students reporting 3 or more disorders. Females, students over 21, LGBT students, and those from a lower socioeconomic background were more likely to have a range of mental health and behavioural problems. Self-harm and suicidal behaviour was evident in 31% of students, and being LGBT was associated with the highest risk of suicidal behaviour. The results suggest that student life can be stressful, with financial pressures, social isolation, and social perfectionism impacting on wellbeing and increasing the risk of mental health difficulties. Overall, 10% of new entry students received treatment for emotional problems in the previous year.  However, over a fifth of students with problems said they would not seek help.   It is important therefore to carefully consider strategies to encourage help-seeking behaviour.  This may include anti-stigma campaigns and effective screening programmes.  Additionally, the support services available to students, and barriers to help seeking, should be addressed. The study therefore provides important information for universities, policy makers and practice identifying risk factors and highlighting areas for intervention. The findings suggest that policies, interventions and prevention strategies should be prioritised for young people to address mental health issues before they arise.  This presentation highlights the critical role of early intervention and encouraging help-seeking, mental health and behavioural problems may be treated before they escalate into comorbid substance problems and suicidal behaviour. [Policy Briefing] [Presentation] [Video]

2.45pm – Discussion
3.15pm – RaISe – Closing Remarks
3.20pm – Networking and Refreshments


1.30pm – RaISe – Welcome and Opening Remarks

1.45pm – Dr Toni McAloon (Ulster), Prof Vivien Coates (Ulster) and Prof Donna Fitzsimons (QUB) – Halting the rise of Obesity: making every clinical contact count

Obesity is a major 21st century health challenge, contributing to chronic illnesses and presents a serious threat to world health. Obesity is associated with more deaths than underweight/malnutrition, imposing a serious financial burden on struggling health services. Northern Ireland has 60% prevalence of adult overweight/obesity and reduction is a priority in the HSC Commissioning Plan Direction 2016/17. Global, national and local guidelines aim to halt its rise by 2025; yet no country is on track to achieve these. Current obesity reduction strategies are failing; with professionals challenged to promote best practice. Clinicians’ beliefs/attitudes are potential barriers to implementing effective strategies. Whilst current research emphasises clinician anti-fat bias, there is no triangulation of bias with clinical outcomes to determine impact. This presentation presents innovative research addressing this deficit through estimating the degree of anti-fat bias in a multidisciplinary sample and examining associations with clinical behaviour. These findings break new ground and contribute to the development and implementation of ‘Transforming Your Care’ agenda and future policies to reduce obesity and associated health care costs. This work is timely with the chief nurses of the 5 countries, including the Republic of Ireland, calling for professional action on obesity reduction as a 2016 priority.  [Policy Briefing] [Presentation] [Video]

2.05pm – Prof Marie Murphy (Ulster) – Sit Less – Move More. Reducing sedentary behaviour to improve health in overweight and obesity
There is strong relationship between time spent in sitting and many health outcomes including, cardiovascular disease and type 2 diabetes. Sedentary behaviour is defined as waking activity with very low levels of energy expenditure and a sitting or reclining posture (SBRN 2012). In modern society sedentary behaviour in adults has become increasingly prevalent with TV viewing and other screen-focused behaviours, prolonged sitting in the workplace, and time spent sitting in cars taking up most of our waking hours. Objective data suggests that UK men and women actually spend approximately 7.5 and 7 hours per day respectively being sedentary (Ekelund 2009). Conversely, interrupting sedentary time and/or replacing it with light-intensity activity has been shown to improve several markers of health. Obesity may act as a mediator between sedentary behaviours and negative health outcomes with more sedentary people more likely to become overweight and obese which then has an impact on health (Same 2016). This presentation will review a range of local, national and international interventions aimed at the individual, environmental and policy levels to reduce sedentary behaviour making policy recommendations to guide future approaches to this important objective.   [Policy Briefing] [Presentation] [Video]

2.25pm – Discussion
2.45pm – Comfort Break

2.55pm – Prof Alison Gallagher, Dr Angela Carlin and Prof Marie Murphy (Ulster) – Teenage girls heading for a lifetime of ill-health. Using the school environment to enhance health-related behaviours: shared experiences and suggested future approaches

Aside from home, children and adolescents spend more time in school than in any other setting. As such schools represent a key environment for promoting of health-related behaviours. Additionally, use of the school-setting has the potential to overcome health inequalities, as all children and adolescents are able to participate irrespective of socioeconomic status. Central to success is ensuring interventions are both effective as well as sustainable in the longer-term. It is important that policy makers, researchers and practitioners actively consult with their target population to gain an understanding of how best to promote the health-behaviour, as well as identify any barriers/ facilitators, thereby informing the content of future interventions. In the UK, children from Northern Ireland are least likely to meet current physical activity recommendations than their counterparts elsewhere. Transition from primary to second-level education represents a time when physical inactivity and sedentary behaviours may increase, especially in adolescent girls. This presentation will share recent data on the development and implementation of a peer- led school-based brisk walking intervention (the WISH study) and will review evidence in relation to what works and suggested ways forward which target this key environment as a means of effectively promoting positive health-related behaviours.   [Policy Briefing] [Presentation] [Video]

3.15pm – Dr Liz Simpson, Dr Marian McLaughlin and Prof Tony Cassidy (Ulster) – Health psychology: Behaviour change for health and well-being in adults and children in Northern Ireland

Reducing health inequalities and promoting well-being is a main focus for Government health policies in Northern Ireland.  Many of the chronic health conditions that are prevalent in our society today, such as obesity, coronary heart disease and diabetes, all have one thing in common, they can be linked to poor lifestyle choices such as smoking, consumption of unhealthy foods and being sedentary. A number of health psychology researchers are working in the area of behaviour change within Northern Ireland.  The aim of this seminar is to provide an overview of how health psychology theories are being used to design more effective interventions to improve health and well-being in different groups and across a range of health related behaviours.  It is worth noting that some theories of behaviour change such as The Theory of Planned Behaviour (TPB) has been endorsed by the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE) as an evidence-based way of predicting health related behaviour and a framework for designing behaviour change interventions.  Within this seminar, we will look at how theories of behaviour change are being used, and in collaboration with Public Health bodies such as Cancer Focus NI, the Public Health Agency and Chest Heart and Stroke NI to develop and deliver more effective behaviour change interventions focusing on physical activity, dietary intake and e-cigarette use. Such theories can be applied to a number of health related behaviours, both at a community and clinical setting, that represent health inequalities and considerable risk for the development of chronic conditions, such as obesity and coronary heart disease and poor health outcomes. This presentation will showcase ongoing research and how health psychology can contribute to Public health in Northern Ireland.   [Policy Briefing] [Presentation] [Video]

3.35pm – Discussion
3.55pm – RaISe – Closing Remarks
4.00pm – Networking and Refreshments


1.30pm – RaISe – Welcome and Opening Remark

1.45pm – Prof Keith Attenborough (OU) – Acoustics for STEM and STEAM

This presentation explains how acoustics can provide motivation for studies in STEM subjects and beyond. Studies of hearing difficulties, home listening systems and subjective response to noise, involve psychology and sociology. Medical applications include ultrasonic scanning and surgery with high intensity focussed ultrasound. But acoustics rarely features in school teaching or in university physics and engineering curricula. Sound can be used to exemplify aspects of waves in the GCSE physics syllabus and noise can be part of environmental studies. Acoustically-related research topics include outdoor sound prediction, soil science, early diagnosis of osteoporosis and musical instrument technology. These topics and other example applications offer ways of motivating acoustically-related teaching and learning in school and university STEM curricula. Simple classroom demonstrations range from shouting competitions to tin-can-loudspeakers. Few Music degree courses include acoustics. But musical acoustics and musical instrument technology bridge the arts-science divide. Many school leavers are attracted to Music Technology degree courses but find any acoustics content interesting and, after graduating, realise that there are more job opportunities in building acoustics and noise consultancy.  This presentation highlights “conversion” options for graduates, including MSc courses in Applied Acoustics and the Institute of Acoustics Diploma in Acoustics and Noise Control, and argues careers advisors should be made aware of these courses and the associated job opportunities.   [Policy Briefing] [Presentation] [Video]

2.25pm – Dr Sarah Lappin (QUB) and Dr Gascia Ouzounian (Oxford University) – Recomposing the City: How Sound Can Make Better Cities

This presentation draws on findings of a research project funded by a three year grant from the Arts and Humanities Research Council. The project seeks to understand how sound can be understood in post-conflict cities. After several months in Berlin and Bonn researching how sound artists have impacted on the way these cities are considered by designers and policy makers, the project team conducted a series of workshops in Belfast in September 2016. Participants at these workshops hailed from a wide spectrum across Northern Ireland, including: Ards and North Down Borough Council, Belfast City Council and Mid Ulster District Council; Belfast Harbour Commissioners; Belfast Healthy Cities; Department of Agriculture Environment and Rural Affairs; Healthy Ageing Strategic Partnership; Belfast Health Development Unit, and; several private sector design companies.

This presentation presents evidence that careful consideration of sound in planning cities can improve many issues including: health and well-being; economic vibrancy; sustainable development, and; inclusive, shared spaces.  It illustrates these possibilities through a series of projects from both the UK and around the world in which designers and sound artists worked together to improve cities in a variety of ways.  [Policy Briefing] [Presentation] [Video]

2.45pm – Discussion
3.15pm – RaISe – Closing Remarks
3.20pm – Networking and Refreshments


1.30pm – RaISe – Welcome and Opening Remarks

1.45pm – Prof Shailey Minocha and Dr Ana-Despina Tudor (OU) – Role of digital health wearables in the well-being and quality of life of older people and carers

The number of adults aged 65 and over has increased by 2% across Europe in the past 15 years, and in Northern Ireland by 22% between 2003-2013. The proportion of the population in this age group is projected to increase by 63% to just under 0.5 million by 2033 – which will be a quarter of the population in Northern Ireland. Given Northern Ireland’s Active Ageing Strategy (2015-2021), there is an increasing focus on encouraging physical activity as we get older to preserve mobility and motor skills, and to enjoy the benefits of living longer and to minimise health problems associated with ageing. Over the last two years, we have been investigating the role of wearable activity tracking technologies in self-monitoring of activity by people aged over 55. Example technologies include activity trackers from Fitbit, Garmin and Samsung, and smart watches. Typically, these devices record steps walked, sleep patterns, calories expended and heart rate.

Based on empirical investigations, this presentation describes the benefits of activity monitors for people aged over 55 for self-monitoring of physical activity, for adopting healthy lifestyles, and for increasing or maintaining physical activity as a way to avoid high blood pressure, obesity, diabetes, and other medical conditions associated with weight or lower physical activity. It outlines the role of activity trackers in post-operative monitoring of mobility during rehabilitation, in caring, and for possible use of the data for diagnosis and medical interventions. It then discusses the challenges for adoption of these technologies, given currently, off-the-shelf devices are designed and calibrated for use by physically fit (typically young active people) with unrealistic fitness targets for the older generation.  [Policy Briefing] [Presentation] [Video]

2.05pm – Dr Hannah R. Marston (OU), Dr Shannon Freeman (University of Northern British Columbia, Canada), Dr Rebecca Genoe (University of Regina, Canada), Dr Cory Kulcyzki (University of Regina, Canada) and Dr Charles Musselwhite (Swansea University) – The Cohesiveness of Technology in Later Life: Findings from the Technology In Later Life (TILL) Project

Statistics show Northern Ireland (NI) ageing population (65+ years) has increased between 1974 (11.2%) to 2014 (15.5%). Estimated projections suggest this will reach 24.7% by 2039. Currently, 35,500 people are aged 85+ years, 12,200 (90-99 years) and it is estimated there are 280 centenarians (NISRA, 2016). The use and deployment of technology can assist in social connectedness reducing isolation, online shopping/bills, information acquisition, physical activity and maintaining intergenerational relationships. Between 2014/15, 69% of adults (60-69 years) had access to the Internet, unlike 40% of adults aged 70+ years; moreover, 82% of adults 60+ years owned a mobile phone. Understanding how technology can play an integral role in the lives of older adults has demonstrated the positive perceptions and behaviour to independent living. Literature, focusing on adults aged >70 years living in rural and urban areas, relating to technology use, behaviour and perception is limited. This presentation concerns the international, multi-centred Technology In Later Life (TILL) study derived from the paucity of literature and studies focusing on technology use and behaviour by adults aged >70 years, employed a multi-methods approach. Its findings suggest participants were open to using and accessing different types of digital devices and technologies to enhance wellbeing and social connectedness which included sharing information with family members, communicating with grand/children living long distance and communicating news via the community. Its recommendations propose reducing privacy issues; while providing practical approaches and insights to technology use by older adults. The presentation adds to the paucity of work in the area of technology use in later life and could inform NI policy makers, health/NHS, communities, families and support networks, helping them to understand the barriers and enablers to technology use in later life. It also highlights that further work is needed to explore perceptual and behavioural concepts across these groups, to ensure ageing populations are confident in integrating technology into their lives.  [Policy Briefing] [Presentation] [Video]

2.25pm – Dr Verina Waights (OU), Prof Panos Bamidis (Aristotle University of Thessaloniki, Greece) and Ms Rosa Almeida (Fundacion Intras, Spain) – Technologies for care – the imperative for upskilling carers 

Ageing populations, coupled with increasing retirement ages and lower ratios of workers to retirees, are negatively impacting health and social care. Currently, 11.8% of Northern Ireland (NI) residents are carers, but it is predicted that by 2025 the number of people aged over 65 will increase by 42%, with the number of people aged over 80 doubling by 2027.  These projections place increasing demands on carers, especially when considered within the ‘changing ethos of health care in NI’ towards a self-management model. Carers increasingly use the internet to find health information, yet worldwide a significant number of people lack health literacy skills and/or digital skills. The EU-funded DISCOVER project involved over 650 carers, care workers and stakeholders in co-designing and co-producing an online learning platform to enhance carers’ and care workers’ health literacy, digital skills and caring skills. Engaging with DISCOVER also enabled carers to share concerns and supportive practices with other carers to help reduce social isolation. This presentation draws on research undertaken for this project and makes recommendations highlighting to policy makers, health care professionals, care agencies and technologists how the lives of carers, care workers and care–recipients could be enhanced in terms of improving their quality of life and reducing their social isolation.  [Policy Briefing] [Presentation] [Video]

2.45pm – Discussion
3.15pm – RaISe – Closing Remarks
3.20pm – Networking and Refreshments


1.30pm – RaISe – Welcome and Opening Remarks

1.45pm – Dr Mark McGovern (QUB), Dr Giampiero Marra (University College London), Dr Rosalba Radice (University of London) and Dr Slawa Rokicki (University College Dublin) – Breastfeeding Promotion as an Economic Investment

Not only are rates of breastfeeding low in Northern Ireland compared to the rest of the UK, but there are substantial inequalities with mothers living in the least deprived wards twice as likely to breastfeed as those living in the most deprived wards. Previous evidence demonstrates that children who are breastfed are healthier and have better educational outcomes, however it is important to assess whether these benefits persist into adulthood. This presentation demonstrates the impact of being breastfed as a child on adult economic and cognitive outcomes. Using data from the National Child Development Study (NCDS), a nationally representative sample of British infants born in one week in 1958, it shows that cohort members who were breastfed for a month or more (compared to not being breastfed) score substantially higher on memory tests at age 50, and their household income is 8 percentage points higher: therefore, differential rates of breastfeeding by parental socioeconomic status perpetuates intergenerational transmission of disadvantage. The presentation discusses how increasing rates of breastfeeding in Northern Ireland provides a low-cost means of investing in the futures of mothers and children and improving inequalities, and illustrates why breastfeeding promotion strategies are likely to have substantial economic benefits in the long-run.   [Policy Briefing] [Presentation]  [Video]

2.05pm – Mr Iain McGowan (QUB), Dr Lucy Thompson and Prof Phil Wilson (University of Aberdeen) – Mellow Parenting: Caring for vulnerable mothers

Pregnancy and childbirth are traditionally recognised as life events that are to be cherished and celebrated. However, recent official reports of deaths by suicide, including a recent report of the Confidential Enquiry on Maternal and Child Health have raised awareness of the potential dangers of mental health problems to mothers during pregnancy and in the first year after giving birth. The long-term impact of maternal ill-health has negative impacts on the emotional, social, educational and physical development of the child. A number of programmes are in existence to support mothers, however these have been criticised for being too expensive, too narrow in focus and not effective. Mellow Parenting, as an intervention, has been delivered in both the Southern & South Eastern Health & Social Care Trust. The Public Health Agency has funded these programmes. This presentation focuses on the role that the Mellow Parenting intervention has on the emotional and mental well-being of vulnerable mothers. To contextualise, it draws on data from a recent systematic review, highlighting the findings from local evaluations of the programme. The presentation aims to help inform social, health, mental health and other polices that are relevant to mental health in this group of people. [Policy Briefing] [Presentation]  [Video]

2.25pm – Discussion
.55pm – RaISe – Closing Remarks
3.00pm – Networking and Refreshments


1.30pm – RaISe – Welcome and Opening Remarks

1.45pm – Dr Cheryl Lawther, Prof Kieran McEvoy and Dr Lauren Dempster (QUB) – Voice, Agency and Blame: Victimhood and Dealing with the Past in Northern Ireland

This presentation presents the preliminary findings of an Arts and Humanities Research Council funded project entitled ‘Voice, Agency and Blame: Victimhood and the Imagined Community in Northern Ireland’. The project is based on qualitative interviews over 2016/17, with over 70 victims and survivors, lawyers, NGO activists, journalists and others. Asking questions concerning the three themes of voice, agency and blame, this project was designed to critically explore the construction and meaning of victimhood in post-conflict Northern Ireland. Drawing on the research findings and focusing on the five overlapping themes of (1) Victimhood, Innocence and Blame; (2) Victimhood, Agency and Imagining Legitimacy; (3) Victimhood, Agency and the Mobilization of Empathy; (4) Victimhood, Voice and Discomfort; and (5) Victimhood, Voice and (Political) Responsibility, this presentation discusses how competing interpretations of victimhood have mapped onto and influenced discussions on how best to deal with the legacy of the past. [Policy Briefing] [Presentation] [Video]

2.05pm – Dr Lauren Dempster (QUB) – The ‘Disappeared,’ the ICLVR, and ‘dealing with the past’ in Northern Ireland

2014’s Stormont House Agreement (SHA) states that the Independent Commission on Information Retrieval (ICIR) will build ‘on the precedent provided by the Independent Commission on the Location of Victims’ Remains’. This presentation explores how the Independent Commission for the Location of Victim Remains (ICLVR) mechanism works and why it provides a useful precedent for the development of the ICIR.  It is based on findings from research which explored the response to the ‘disappearances’ that occurred during the conflict in Northern Ireland through a transitional justice lens. The presentation sets out finding that show the ICLVR has been relatively successful, and considers why this is the case. It also considers that, while the mechanism that facilitates information recovery is in itself instructive, further lessons can be learned from the response to the ‘disappearances’ and the ICLVR process for dealing with the past in Northern Ireland. [Policy Briefing] [Presentation] [Video]

2.25pm – Prof Kieran McEvoy and Dr Anna Bryson (QUB) – Apologies, Abuses and Dealing with the past

Within the academic literature, the concept of apology is diversely theorised and almost always focused on the state.  Despite widespread acceptance that apologies are key to dealing with past wrongs, in practice there has been relatively little detailed empirical assessment of the views of apologisers, victims or the general public. By exploring the perspectives of perpetrators, victims and the wider community, this presentation seeks to provide a roadmap for a more comprehensive and rigorous analysis of the role of apologies in dealing with the past.  Taking the island of Ireland, as a case-study, it examines the relationship between apologies, abuses and dealing with the past in the context of harms associated with paramilitary violence, institutional child abuses and the recent economic crisis. Deliberation and debate on apologies by government, civil society and other actors. The presentation could help inform in various contexts, such as the Northern Ireland political conflict negotiations, child abuse by religious authorities inquiries and Irish banking crisis inquiries. [Policy Briefing] [Presentation] [Video]

2.45pm – Discussion
3.15pm – RaISe – Closing Remarks
.20pm – Networking and Refreshments


1.30pm – RaISe – Welcome and Opening Remarks

1.45pm – Dr Sally Cook, Dr Paul McKenzie and Dr Stephen Roulston (Ulster) – Using GPS tracking devices to explore the geographies of young people

This presentation highlights the communal divisions in one town in Northern Ireland, Coleraine, through the use of Global Positioning Systems (GPS) tracking. GPS can generate evidence to help us understand young people’s movements and geographies, particularly in a post-conflict context where notions of place, space and territory have such significance. The almost exclusive use of some spaces within this settlement by those identifying themselves as ‘Catholic’ or ‘Protestant is not surprising to those familiar with residential segregation in Northern Ireland. Other areas of the settlement appear to show space which is used by both groups equally, particularly in the town centre. While both shared and contested space is suggested within the settlement, the use of “shared” space is argued to be more nuanced than might at first be apparent and it may be that this space is co-used (used by each community but separately), rather than shared. Technology has much to tell us about the very different geographies faced by young people and potential links between a “poverty of geography” and low aspiration and achievement.

The presentation also explores incidental findings of the research, which highlighted other differences, meriting further discussion and study. There is considerable potential for GPS tracking devices used in combination with physical activity monitors, particularly looking at the impact of mobility patterns and activity on health, especially as risk factors for obesity in adolescents are higher in some socio-economic groups in Northern Ireland.  [Policy Briefing] [Presentation] [Video]

2.05pm – Prof Stephen McClean (Ulster) – Interactive Technologies to Enhance Learning and Teaching in Higher Education

While funding for higher education has been reduced there remains an impetus on universities to provide a high quality and engaging student experience. With increasing class sizes and diversity of learner, research reveals digital technology can be used effectively to enhance digital skills and promote active and collaborative learning opportunities.

This presentation draws on such research in the context of higher education, highlighting how utilising digital tools such as “Peerwise” and “Nearpod” provide an enhanced participatory environment for students entering higher education. This is particularly relevant with widening participation agendas and preparing students for employment where they may encounter a myriad of technology platforms. The presentation addresses the challenges and opportunities of using collaborative platforms in higher education, and provides suggestions on how such technologies could be successfully implemented to enhance practical skills and provide an optimal learning experience. [Policy Briefing] [Presentation] [Video]

2.25pm – Discussion
2.45pm – Comfort Break

2.55pm – Prof Shailey Minocha (OU), Dr Steve Tilling (UCL Institute of Education) and Dr Ana-Despina Tudor (OU) – Role of Virtual Reality in Geography and Science Fieldwork Education

Fieldwork has a long tradition in geography, and in certain sciences, notably geology, biology and environmental sciences. Fieldwork involves leaving the classroom and engaging in learning and teaching through first-hand experience of phenomena in outdoor settings. Exploration in natural habitats introduces students to the complexity and unpredictability of the real world, stimulates their curiosity, and increases their interest in scientific inquiry. However, over the last decade, there has been a decline in field-study opportunities in schools. This presentation describes the first extensive user-centered research programme into the role of technology-enabled virtual field trips as a means for improving the effectiveness of the outdoor fieldwork experience. It draws on a year-long research project that investigated how Google Expeditions, a smartphone-driven mobile virtual reality application, bridges virtual fieldwork with physical field trips and facilitates inquiry-based fieldwork and experiential learning. It examines the role of Google Expeditions in primary and secondary school science and geography, outlining the opportunities and challenges of integrating mobile virtual reality in schools and the practical implications of our research for fieldwork education in further and higher education.  [Policy Briefing] [Presentation] [Video]

3.15pm – Dr Claire McDowell (Ulster), Prof Julian Leslie (Ulster) and Dr Catherine Storey (QUB) – Better Reading for Better Outcomes- Working Collaboratively to Narrow the Attainment Gap          

Despite a nationwide understanding that reading well is essential to tackling the effects of poverty, Northern Ireland still has one of the highest percentages of children failing to reach the lowest literacy benchmark. Past research has shown that if children do not learn to read well, they can form a disaffection with the education system and get fewer qualifications leading to potential unemployment or low-paid work.  It also has shown that investigating remedial action suggests that explicit, systematic phonological training is the most effective method of increasing reading accuracy and fluency.  The National Reading Panel has also outlined the effectiveness of supplementary computer assisted instruction (CAI).  The results in 2000 of an analysis of 59 studies found that the use of CAI, alongside conventional instruction, produced greater results than conventional instruction alone, and that students learn material faster with CAI than conventional instruction alone. However, not all commercially available CAI packages are equally effective, as found in 2016.  One commercially available CAI programme that shows promising results is Headsprout Early Reading©.  This online instructional program targets each of the 5 sub-skills identified by the National Reading Panel (2000) through intensive systematic phonics training. Headsprout© claims to bring a beginning reader to a proficient level of reading in 80, 20-minute episodes (30 hours of instruction), with an additional 50 episodes to target Reading Comprehension. For nearly two decades, experimental evaluations of Headsprout© have shown clear efficacy and efficiency, in improving reading skills of individuals with autism, typically developing learners, and looked after children when compared to conventional instruction, and to other commercially available programmes.

Drawing on the findings of these evaluations, this presentation discusses ways to work collaboratively to empower schools and parents in NI to better recognise evidence based approaches, and to use these effectively to remediate literacy difficulties and increase attainment of children most in need.  [Policy Briefing] [Presentation] [Video]

3.35pm – Discussion
3.55pm – RaISe – Closing Remarks
4.00pm – Networking and Refreshments


1.30pm – RaISe – Welcome and Opening Remarks

1.45pm – Prof Gráinne McKeever, Dr Lucy Royal-Dawson, Dr John McCord and Dr Eleanor Kirk (Ulster) – Litigants in person in the civil and family courts in Northern Ireland

This presentation presents findings based on qualitative and quantitative research with personal litigants conducted from September 2016 to September 2017, in civil and family law proceedings in Northern Ireland.  Research provides an evidence-based analysis of the reasons why people self-represent and the characteristics of personal litigants, including their socio-demographic profiles, as well as their self-reported general health status. Such profiling of the characteristics of personal litigants in Northern Ireland has never been conducted before.  The findings are relevant to the work of the proposed Civil Justice Council and Family Justice Board. Recommendations flowing from the research could help to inform Department of Justice policies on how to ensure personal litigants’ court experiences are human rights compliant and provide practical ways in which the Court Service could respond to the recommendations of the 2017 final report of the Civil and Family Justice Review. [Policy Briefing] [Presentation] [Video]

2.05pm – Dr John Topping (QUB) – Police Stop & Search Powers: Understanding Nature & Extent of Adversarial Contact Between PSNI and the Public

Governed primarily under the Police and Criminal Evidence (Northern Ireland) Order 1989 (PACE), the Police Service of Northern Ireland’s (PSNI) use of stop and search powers have remained as a consistent – and growing – power over the past decade.  Analysis of most recent data shows the powers are used 68% more than ten years ago; and at a greater rate than any other police service in the United Kingdom at 18 per 1000 of population, compared to 9 per 1000 in Scotland, and 7 per 1000 in England & Wales.  In this regard, stop and search is the most common form of adversarial contact with the public.

PSNI state the powers are ‘an operational tool used to prevent, detect and investigate crime as well as to bring offenders to justice’.  Yet empirical evidence demonstrates stop and search has a minimal – and in some cases negligible – effect on the prevention or detection of crime.  This can be read in conjunction with policy shifts which have resulted in a 70% drop in use of the powers over the past five years in England/Wales – which encompasses a 16% arrest rate.  For PSNI, the average arrest rate sits at 6%, with 8 out of their 11 districts below that level.  It is also notable that children (17 and under) remain a significant focus of the powers.  Between 2010/11 – 2016/17, over 28,000 children have been subject to stop and search, with 15-17-year-old males five times more likely to be stopped proportional to numbers in the population.  Lack of public data also means PSNI’s use of stop and search, in terms of compliance with section 75 of the Northern Ireland Act 1998, the Human Rights Act 1998 or their own Code of Ethics remains difficult to ascertain. Focused primarily on PACE-type powers, this presentation explores the key issues surrounding PSNI’s use of stop and search, raising questions related to use and oversight for all the policing institutions in the country.  [Policy Briefing] [Presentation] [Video]

2.25pm – Dr Taiwo Oriola (Ulster) – Criminalising Revenge Porn in Northern Ireland: Laws and Lessons from England and Wales and other Common Law Jurisdictions.

Revenge pornography encapsulates the act of online distribution or publication of sexually explicit private images or films of an ex-girlfriend, boyfriend, or partner, without their consent; with a view to humiliating or causing distress for a perceived wrong or slight.

Whilst revenge pornography predates the Internet, the ubiquitous Internet, the social media and the proliferation of mobile digital devices for capturing intimate images, have been previously found to exacerbate the problem. The epidemics of revenge pornography led to its criminalisation in England and Wales in April 2015, via sections 33-35 of the Criminal Justice Act 2015; and subsequently in Northern Ireland in February 2016, via sections 50-53 of the Justice Act, Northern Ireland 2016.  The criminalisation of revenge porn helped highlight the seriousness of the problem, and led to successful prosecution of 206 people in England and Wales within a year of the enactment of the Criminal Justice Act 2015. In Northern Ireland, there is as yet, no reported prosecution for revenge pornography under sections 50-53 of the Justice Act 2016. However, in 2016, two revenge pornography cases were heard by the Queen’s Bench Division of Belfast High Court, in which the plaintiffs sought civil remedies. (AY a minor acting as next friend v. Facebook (Ireland Limited & others, [2016] NIQB 76; and MM v. BC, RS and Facebook Ireland Limited, [2016] NIQB 60).

Whilst drawing on legislative and judicial responses to revenge pornography in England and Wales and other common law jurisdictions, this presentation reviews the provisions of sections 50-53 of the Justice Act 2016, and highlights civil remedies that could be available to victims of revenge pornography. Also, the presentation explores the legal responsibility of social media platforms, and the extent to which technical measures could be deployed alongside existing legal measures to combat online revenge pornography. [Policy Briefing] [Presentation] [Video]

2.45pm – Discussion
3.15pm – RaISe – Closing Remarks
3.20pm – Networking and Refreshments


1.30pm – RaISe – Welcome and Opening Remarks

1.45pm – Dr Damian Gallagher (Ulster), Dr Ann Pegoraro (Laurentian University, Canada), Prof Audrey Gilmore (Ulster) and Mr Ryan Bell (Ulster) – Government Policy & the Business of Sport in Northern Ireland.

The principal aim of this presentation is to highlight a current gap in the government policy of Northern Ireland in relation to the business of sport.  It seeks to stimulate debate and aid understanding of how greater attention to this additional strategic priority at a local-domestic level has the potential to realise self-sustaining economic benefits – beyond the existing £867 million per annum that sport in Northern Ireland currently generates.

As government spending faces increasing pressures and monies to government departments are being reduced, it is imperative that greater attention is paid by sports teams and bodies to developing their own self-sustaining revenue streams.  However, with limited resources, and much of the existing government funding dependent on fulfilling the 3 existing strategic priorities of Participation, Performance and Places, it is difficult to envisage how the local domestic sports teams and bodies in Northern Ireland will develop the alternative revenue streams that will help them become less reliant on government funding.

Social media (SM) provides opportunities that are crucial for the survival of many sports teams and bodies. SM use by sport organisations has been recognised to be largely driven by two key factors: the relatively inexpensive cost of SM when compared to traditional marketing tools and the ability to connect with millions of fans with ease. SM is a unique marketing communications tool that sport organisations can use to attempt to overcome the challenges related to budgets, media coverage, and fan interaction all while providing the means to increase the key revenues of match day and non-match day revenues and realising the activation needs of sponsors.

This presentation reports the findings of an investigation into the social media activities of football clubs within the Northern Irish Football League, highlighting the findings of a multimethod study that employed a netnography study, in-depth interviews with key sector informants and a wide ranging fan survey (n=1049).  It provides support for growing calls that greater attention be paid to the strategic development of local domestic sports teams and bodies via the increased prioritisation of the business of sport at a policy level.  [Policy Briefing] [Presentation] [Video]

2.05pm – Discussion
2.35pm – RaISe – Closing Remarks
2.40pm – Networking and Refreshments


 1.30pm – RaISe – Welcome and Opening Remarks

 1.45pm – Dr Mark Simpson (Ulster) – Protecting dignity, fighting poverty and promoting social inclusion in devolved social security

The protection of human dignity and poverty reduction are core functions of social security. Changes to working age benefits since 2010 have reduced claimants’ incomes, putting more people at risk of poverty and arguably reducing the ability of the system to support a dignified standard of living. Human rights law has been used to challenge key policies and pressure has grown for a different approach in Scotland and Northern Ireland, resulting in Northern Ireland’s mitigations programme and the devolution of new powers to Scotland. The Scottish Government has given a commitment to develop a devolved system on the basis of a distinctive set of principles, notably respect for the dignity of claimants, and plans to reinstate statutory targets for the reduction of child poverty. The Northern Ireland Executive has a legal duty to publish a strategy for tackling poverty and social exclusion. There are also proposals for enhanced protection of social and economic rights in both regions. These objectives could be undermined by benefit cuts. Limiting the child element of universal credit to two children per household is projected to increase child poverty and merits particularly close attention. Recent judicial reviews show senior judges are increasingly prepared to hold governments accountable for the impact of social security regulations on children’s rights. It is therefore likely that this change will be challenged in the courts. However, the devolved regions need not wait for legal action. The two-child limit works against Scottish policy on child poverty, while Northern Ireland’s larger average family size and higher rates of socio-economic disadvantage mean it will be among the most affected United Kingdom (UK) regions: parity in social security provision does not mean parity of living standards. Drawing on research for the Equality and Human Rights Commission, the seminar examines how social security system can protect dignity. It then assesses the impact of recent reforms in the UK, with a focus on child-related benefits. Finally, it suggests that dignity and child poverty can help devolved administrations identify priority areas where limited resources can be targeted to improve social security at the regional level.   [Policy Briefing] [Presentation] [Video]

2.05pm – Dr Paul McKenzie (Ulster) – Mapping Fuel Poverty Across Northern Ireland

Fuel poverty is a significant issue across Europe and a particular problem within the UK and Ireland. Fuel poverty occurs when insufficient funds are available to pay for a warm and comfortable home. Households affected by fuel poverty are at risk of physical and mental health difficulties and are linked with excess winter mortality. While strategies exist to reduce fuel poverty, there is a pressing need to allocate assistance to those most in need. As fuel poverty is influenced by various socio-economic indicators, an area-based targeting approach was developed to identify households most at risk of fuel poverty.

Geographic Information Systems (GIS) can be used to integrate variables that are key determinants of fuel poverty including temperature, the price of home heating oil, data on benefits (e.g. Disability Living Allowance) and deprivation. GIS enabled variables to be combined and weighted for each Census Output Area (COA) to create a fuel poverty risk score for every household in Northern Ireland.

This presentation highlights findings of research undertaken in relation to fuel poverty risk model, which received further funding from OFMDFM and the Department for Social Development (DSD) to liaise with local councils to determine the efficiency of the area-based model to identify those households most at risk. Questionnaires were conducted in partnership with 18 District Councils to identify the extent of fuel poverty within targeted COAs. The area-based approach proved very successful in identifying households at risk of fuel poverty.

The research found that the ability to combine, analyse and visualise many socio-economic datasets means that this technique is transferable to many other areas of application. This presentation explains that the approach enables planners and policy makers to visualise “at-risk” groups which in turn facilitates targeting of resources and assistance of those most in need. It also explains that the approach developed for fuel poverty has considerable potential for wider poverty mapping and research is currently underway at Ulster University on an area-based algorithm for mapping food poverty in Northern Ireland.   [Policy Briefing] [Presentation] [Video]

2.25pm – Discussion
2.55pm – RaISe – Closing Remarks
3.00pm – Networking and Refreshments


 1.30pm – RaISe – Welcome and Opening Remarks

1.45pm – Prof Roger Austin (Ulster) and Prof Rhiannon Turner (QUB) – New evidence and new approaches for shared education

This presentation focuses on how new research evidence can be used to make shared education more sustainable and more accessible for more children. Shared education has been adopted as policy by the Northern Ireland Assembly and Executive. It is based on the hope that the sharing of resources and expertise between schools can improve community relations and raise educational outcomes (DE 2016). Most of the 300 schools currently involved in shared education projects (25% of the total number of schools) do so through the Shared Education Signature Programme. Children meet face to face and spend time together on joint curricular projects either in neutral venues or in each other’s schools.

The presentation considers new research evidence on a different approach to shared education –  blended contact – a combination of online interaction and face to face work which can inform future policy development. It includes findings of a study with 28 primary schools in Northern Ireland with marked socio-economic and educational disadvantage, which suggest that blended contact has striking advantages, not just in terms of children’s better understanding of each other, but also in the skills of teachers with regard to use of ICT communication tools, such as Virtual Learning Environments and video-conferencing. Since the online element of the contact is already available in schools in Northern Ireland there would be no additional cost to schools or to government. Making better use of existing technology resources in schools for shared education has the added advantage that it helps teachers meet the new statutory requirements for the assessment of Using Information Communication Technology. This presentation explains how this kind of alignment, between two different policy areas in schools, is likely to make shared education more sustainable. Moreover, it explains that the use of online contact provides a better chance to include ALL schools, irrespective of their geographical location and in this sense makes shared education more accessible by more schools.  [Policy Briefing] [Powerpoint Presentation] [Video]

2.05pm – Mr David Coyles, Prof Brandon Hamber and Dr Adrian Grant (Ulster) – Hidden barriers and divisive architecture: the case of Belfast

The “peace-walls” are particularly symbolic of the role that architecture plays in separating residential communities and a comprehensive scholarship continues to assess their effects. This presentation outlines original findings from a three-year multi-disciplinary academic research project funded by the Arts and Humanities Research Council, which extends this current understanding of physical and social division. It reveals new evidence of a distinct and important, yet largely unrecognised, body of divisive architecture; an extensive range of ‘hidden barriers’ embedded in various architectural forms across Belfast’s residential communities. The presentation draws on six distinctive case-study communities that have been subjected to the implementation of ‘hidden barriers’ during the comprehensive redevelopment of social-housing during the Troubles: all six communities fall within the top ten percentile of the most deprived electoral wards in Northern Ireland with comprehensive, evidence-based examples of less visible and undervalued forms of social and physical division. The case studies provide a rigorous and reliable evidence base drawn from qualitative fieldwork that includes architectural mapping, photography, community focus groups and in excess of 100 community interviews. This data is underpinned by new and extensive archival research and analysis of NINIS statistical data. The presentation explains how emerging findings from the research reveal complex and multi-layered impacts that these “hidden barriers” have on community relations and community regeneration policy aspirations that are central to the implementation of the Executive’s ‘Together: Building a United Community Strategy’. It concludes by outlining recommendations on how these issues could be addressed within current policy frameworks, presenting the case for the development of novel and bespoke approaches to issues of concern, with a focus on housing, tourist development, and infrastructural investment.  [Policy Briefing] [Powerpoint Presentation] [Video]

2.25pm – Discussion
2.55pm – RaISe – Closing Remarks
3.00pm – Networking and Refreshments