Healthy Happy Minds Therapeutic and Counselling Service Pilot

The Healthy Happy Minds Therapeutic and Counselling Service Pilot was launched by the Minister for Education in November 2021. This pilot service is available for primary aged pupils in mainstream primary schools, special schools and primary EOTAS provisions and is operational until 31 March 2022.

Alongside counselling the pilot provides the opportunity for a broad range of therapeutic interventions to be tested at primary school level including play, drama, music, art and equine assisted therapy and learning.

The pilot will be subject to an independent evaluation to determine the appropriateness of these interventions for primary schools going forward, subject to funding.

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Healthy Happy Minds Pilot Monthly Monitoring Returns

The Department of Education (DE) Guidance states that schools should collect data about the Health Happy Minds Therapeutic and Counselling Service Pilot and report to the Education Authority (EA) on a monthly basis. The purpose of this return is to provide a clear quantitative and qualitative evidence base to determine the appropriateness of a permanent therapeutic and counselling service going forward, subject to securing the necessary resources. The MMR must be returned for each and every month by the 2nd Friday of the following month on which schools are reporting.

Frequently Asked Questions

Access to Therapies

What kind of therapies/counselling can a school avail of?

Schools can avail of a range of therapies which include Talking Therapies, Play Therapy, Drama Therapy, Music Therapy, Art Therapy and Equine Assisted Therapy.

Who can access therapy?

The Healthy Happy Minds Therapeutic and Counselling Service Pilot is available for all primary aged pupils attending primary schools, special schools and primary EOTAS provisions.

What should we do if a parent/carer or child refuses to engage with counselling?

A child can only benefit from therapy/counselling if they wish to engage with it – choice is essential.  A conversation with a parent/carer should take place to explain the reasons why counselling/therapy has been suggested for their child.

Do sessions have to take place on school grounds?

Most sessions will take place on school grounds with the exception of Equine Assisted Therapy which will take place where there is access to horses or donkeys.

Do sessions have to take place within school hours?

Sessions should be available during school hours only.

Does a risk assessment need to be carried out for therapies that take place off school grounds?

A risk assessment should be carried out before a child begins any form of therapy/counselling that takes place outside of school e.g. Equine Assisted Therapy.

Can a child avail of more than one type of therapy?

It is not recommended that a child engages with more than one therapy/counselling intervention at the same time. An initial assessment should be carried out by the therapy/ counselling provider to determine the most appropriate form of therapy to meet the child’s individual needs.

Therapy Providers

We do not currently offer counselling. Is there a list of providers available in our local area that we can approach?

A list of providers will be made available from the Education Authority.

Our current provider does not meet the required level of experience/qualification. Can we continue to use them?

All therapists/counsellors must be appropriately experienced and qualified in line with the requirements outlined by DE.

Can therapist/counsellors be working towards accreditation?

Therapist/counsellors can be working towards accreditation.

Can therapist/counsellors be working towards a qualification?

All counsellors must have the required qualifications as stipulated by DE before commencing sessions.

Can therapist/counsellors use this as supervised practice towards their qualification?

All therapists/counsellors must meet the required qualifications. No student counsellors can be employed to provide therapy/counselling in schools.


When does the budget have to be spent by?

The Budget must be spent by 31 March 2022.

Why is the budget allocated in two instalments?

The Education Authority (EA) is developing a Framework for schools to draw down the counselling/therapeutic sessions which will be in place in January 2022. Until then, and as agreed with Department of Education (DE) the EA is releasing 50% of the budget in November and the other 50% in January 2022.

We currently have a member of staff trained/qualified in one of the therapy areas. Can we use the money to pay them to deliver sessions?

Yes, provided they meet with the requirements outlined in the DE guidance.

Is additional money available to cover resources, travel costs for counsellors/ therapists?

No. The therapy/counselling session costs should include planning, administration and travel costs.

Is there guidance in relation to identifying the school Key Contact?

Ideally the Key Contact should be a member of the SMT. Consideration should be given to ensure the Key Contact has the capacity to fulfil the responsibilities of the role.

Does the cost of Access NI checks have to come from our allocated budget?

Therapy/Counselling Providers are responsible for ensuring that they have completed all necessary background checks.

Can we pool our budget with one or some of our cluster schools?

Schools can continue with any clustering arrangements already in place with other schools, however it is advised that each school manages and is accountable for its own budget.

When do we have to submit the Monthly Monitoring Returns?

The Monthly Monitoring Returns (MMR) need to be submitted to the EA by the 2nd Friday of the following month. This will be issued to schools and returned to the EA using a Google Form.

What is my schools budget allocation?

You will find the all the details of your budget allocation on the allocation letter issue by the EA. All expenditure should be coded to the resource code ‘N’ and function code ‘80433’.

Roles & Responsibilities

Who will provide information for parents / carers?

The therapy/counselling provider will provide relevant information for the school to share with parents/carers regarding the types of therapy available to children and the referral process.

We have never offered therapy/counselling before. Is there help and advice available on the best way to introduce it to parents/carers and children?

Principals and Key Contacts should liaise with the therapy/counselling provider to discuss how the service will be promoted within the school.

Is any training available for Principals and Key Contacts?

The EA will provide information sessions for Principals and Key Contacts during November 2021.

Where can I access the ICSS Handbook?

School Information Sessions - Presentation

Last updated: 06/01/2022