Plans for Lifeline development and improvements announced
The Public Health Agency (PHA) has today set out the next steps in the process for developing and tendering the Lifeline crisis response service, following the decision by the Department of Health to approve plans for its future.
Lifeline is Northern Ireland’s helpline service for people who are experiencing distress or despair, funded under Protect Life, the Suicide Prevention Strategy.
Lifeline is a key priority for the PHA, as it provides essential support to people at a time when they are at their most vulnerable. It is therefore essential that the arrangements for the operation of the service are reviewed periodically to ensure that it provides the best support for people in crisis.
The PHA held two 12-week public consultations on proposals for the future of the Lifeline service. Following consideration of feedback from service users, the public and a range of organisations in the community and voluntary sector and the public sector, and taking into account best practice and learning from the operation of Lifeline since its establishment, a number of new recommendations on the future of the service were made.
These recommendations have now been approved by the Department and will be taken forward.
The revised service model will include:
- Continuation of Lifeline as a free 24-hour telephone service, operated by staff with specific skills and experience in supporting people in crisis, assessing their needs and arranging a warm handover to appropriate support;
- In addition to the helpline, there will be continuation of follow-on counselling, with capacity for 25,000 sessions per year;• The service will be enhanced with the capacity to provide 2,600 sessions per year for relative/ carer support;
- Lifeline will be enhanced further with 6,500 sessions per year for complementary therapy being made available for those with the greatest levels of anxiety, to assist them into talking therapies;
- Investment in Lifeline will remain at the current level.
The new model will also see the crisis helpline being operated by one provider, enabling them to focus specifically on this key aspect of the Lifeline service. Follow-on support will be managed by providers in each local trust area to meet the particular needs of Lifeline clients and ensure that Lifeline is integrated with other existing support at a local level. The service will be fully integrated within a seamless and unified system, ensuring that people get the support they need at all stages of their journey with Lifeline. Robust protocols will be put in place to ensure strong collaborative working, with twice-yearly external independent assessments and benchmarking of services for quality assurance.
Procurement of the telephone helpline service and local support services will be through public tender.
The Department of Health and Public Health Agency are confident that the new contracts will provide a better service for those at risk and would like to thank everybody who contributed in helping to shape the new service.
The PHA would also like to acknowledge the dedication of staff and the sensitivity with which they have provided the current confidential service to people who are at their most vulnerable.
Information in respect of the tender process will be available to interested parties on the eTendersNI portal (www.etendersni.gov.uk/epps/home.do).
It is important to remember that during the period of securing and transitioning to the new service, Lifeline continues to be available 24/7 to provide support to anyone who is in distress or despair.
This will continue to be the case when the future service model is implemented.
If you or someone you know is in distress or despair, call Lifeline on 0808 808 8000. This is a confidential service which is available 24 hours a day, seven days a week. You can also access the Lifeline website at www.lifelinehelpline.info
During the consultation process, the PHA held two 12-week public consultations on proposals for the future of the Lifeline service. The first looked at feedback from the public on potential future models, while the second process presented outline proposals for public consideration. During the second consultation process, the Agency organised nine public workshops, and took part in a further 17 workshops organised by third party organisations. Over 300 participants attended these events, at which members of the public, service users and staff employed by the current contractor were in attendance and participated in discussion. In addition, a number of tailored briefings were provided to a range of organisations.