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Dr Jeremy Harbison: Distinguished top civil servant who helped to shape social policy in Northern Ireland

One of the most influential figures in health policy matters in Northern Ireland, Dr Jeremy Harbison, died recently.

He retired from the Northern Ireland civil service in 2001 where he had worked at a senior level across a number of departments.

In his career he helped formulate policy in social areas including health, social care, community relations, urban regeneration and social exclusion. Previously he had spent 10 years working as a clinical psychologist. Dr Harbison, who was confined to a wheelchair after contracting polio, was made a Companion of the Bath in the 1999 New Year Honours for outstanding public service.

He graduated in psychology from Queen's University in 1964 and completed a D.Phil in the same subject at the University of Ulster in 1983. After working as a clinical and research psychologist at Belfast City Hospital, he joined the civil service in 1974.

He was Deputy Permanent Secretary at the Department of Health and Social Services, the Department of the Environment and the Department of Social Development.

After retirement he chaired the Northern Ireland Social Care Council (NISCC) from its establishment in 2001 to 2011. The council is the regulatory body for the social care profession in Northern Ireland.

Dr Harbison was also Honorary Vice President of the NI Council for Voluntary Action (Nicva). Other appointments included Commissioner of the Legal Services Commission, non-executive director of the Public Health Agency and Trustee of the Community Foundation for NI. He chaired the Council of the University of Ulster for 11 years until his death. He was also a pro-Chancellor of the university.

An Ulster University spokesperson said: "We are deeply saddened by the recent passing of Dr Jeremy Harbison, our esteemed Chair of Council for Ulster University. Jeremy served on council for 11 years and his commitment to the university will be greatly missed. We extend our sincere sympathy to his entire family circle."

Jim Perry, NISCC Chair, said: "Dr Harbison was the first Chair of the NISCC when it was founded in 2001. His skills and expertise were key to establishing the council as the standard bearer for social work and social care in NI. NISCC is indebted to him for his contribution to introduce professional regulation and standards for the social work and social care workforce in NI. Even after his retirement as Chair, Dr Harbison continued to take a keen interest in the work of our organisation."

A Nicva official said: "Jeremy was a distinguished public servant and progressive individual who made an enormous contribution to society. He was an inspirational person and will be a sad loss to Nicva and the wider community."

Belfast Telegraph


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