NIFAC Committee Member Information Pack for Applicants
Information pack for the appointment of Committee Members for the Northern Ireland Food Advisory Committee (NIFAC). The closing date for this vacancy has been extended from the original deadline of 4pm Tuesday 28th November 2023. The new deadline to submit applications is 4pm Tuesday 5th December 2023.
Information for applicants
We are currently looking to appoint 3 new members of the Northern Ireland Food Advisory Committee (NIFAC). This pack contains details of the Committee, duties involved, including indicative time commitment, remuneration and information on how to apply.
Please note that applications should be received by email no later than 4pm on Tuesday 5th December 2023. Completed applications should be returned to: Michael.Sewell@food.gov.uk
Completed monitoring forms should be returned to: Conor.Campbell@food.gov.uk
Guidance notes for applicants are included in Annex A.
NIFAC acts as an advisory body to the Food Standards Agency (FSA). Members of NIFAC are appointed by the Minister responsible for the Department of Health (DoH) in accordance with the Food Standards Act 1999. The statutory role is defined as follows:
"There shall be an advisory committee for Northern Ireland for the purpose of giving advice or information to the Agency about matters connected with its functions (including, in particular, matters affecting or otherwise relating to Northern Ireland)."
Members appointed to NIFAC should comply at all times with the Seven Guiding Principles of Public Life, laid down by the Nolan Committee on Standards in Public Life (Annex B) Applicants may also wish to note the ‘Complaints and Conflicts of Interest Information Guidance’.
What is the Food Standards Agency?
The FSA is a non-ministerial Government Department, set up in 2000 by the Food Standards Act 1999 to: “protect public health from risks which may arise in connection with the consumption of food, and otherwise to protect the interests of consumers in relation to food.” The FSA is governed by a Board, appointed by Ministers, to act in the public interest. It is a Government Department but is led by a Board rather than directly by a Minister. This enables it to work at “arm’s length” from Government. The legislation which established the FSA (the Food Standards Act 1999) reinforced the FSA’s position by giving it powers to publish any advice it issues, including advice to Ministers.
One Board member for Northern Ireland is appointed by the Minister of Health in Northern Ireland and this member also acts as Chair of NIFAC. Anthony Harbinson is currently the Board Member for Northern Ireland and Chair of NIFAC.
The FSA is equally accountable to the Westminster Parliament, the Northern Ireland Assembly and the Welsh Parliament through their relevant Health Ministers. It operates across England, Wales and Northern Ireland, and works closely with Food Standards Scotland (FSS), with offices in Belfast, London, York and Cardiff. The FSA in Northern Ireland is responsible for devolved legislation, and policy relating to food and feed safety and hygiene, nutrition and health claims, standards and labelling, and food compositional standards and labelling.
Recognising the range of often conflicting and confusing advice on food, the FSA aims to ensure that it is the UK’s most reliable source of advice and information about food, in which the consumer can have confidence. The FSA’s mission is food you can trust, which means:
Food is safe
Food is vital to everyone, every day. We all have a right to expect that food we eat will not make us ill. This is why the FSA prioritises keeping the level of foodborne disease low. This is done in many ways; from direct inspection work in the meat, dairy and wine industries to surveillance and preventative programmes.
Food is what it says it is
Consumers should be confident that food is what it says it is. That is why the FSA ensures that food is authentic and properly described. This is essential to maintain the confidence of the public and international trading partners in UK food. Food authenticity is also closely linked to food safety.
Food is healthier and more sustainable
Dietary health and sustainability are growing priorities for the UK government, Welsh Government and Northern Ireland Executive, and for the consumers whose interests the FSA protects. The FSA needs to play its part in supporting government partners and others in the wider food system to make it easier for consumers to access a healthier and more sustainable diet.
NIFAC was established in 2000 to provide advice and information to the FSA. Such advice and information will be on food safety, food standards and allied subjects, particularly as they relate to Northern Ireland. NIFAC members are appointed by the Minister of Health in accordance with the Food Standards Act 1999, to provide a wide range of expertise, experience and practical knowledge.
- provides insight and advice on Northern Ireland specific issues
- acts collectively in the public interest
- advises on the development of policy and legislation undertaken by the Agency
- helps to establish priorities for the Agency taking account of consumer concerns; surveillance or research data; topical issues and; committee members’ judgement.
NIFAC is committed to working in an open and transparent way by:
- holding public meetings in a variety of locations across Northern Ireland
- listening to the views of Northern Ireland stakeholders
- supporting the FSA at public events
- identifying issues that are important to Northern Ireland
- producing thorough and well considered advice.
In the last year the Committee has:
- held three themed meetings in Northern Ireland
- considered and provided advice on the overarching themes of the FSA’s strategy, the Food Standards Delivery Model, feed, and current and future food crime/food fraud risks.
General responsibilities of NIFAC members
NIFAC acts as an advisory body to the FSA. The Committee’s term of reference is:
To give advice or information to the Agency about matters connected with its functions including in particular matters affecting or otherwise relating to Northern Ireland.
Members of NIFAC are contracted for 20 days per year at an honorarium of £3,885.00 per annum, paid monthly in arrears at one twelfth of the annual rate by bank credit. The honorarium is non-pensionable, is subject to the deduction of National Insurance and is taxable. The FSA will determine any variation in the level of annual remuneration. The right to this remuneration under the Act ends on the expiry of your term of office or its earlier termination.
While we welcome applications from Civil Servants and other public sector workers, The Executive Office Public Appointments Guidance states: “Applicants who already work in the public sector need to be aware that no one should be paid twice from the public purse for the same period of time. As a result, applicants who already work in the public sector may not be entitled to claim remuneration for a public appointment if the duties are undertaken during a period of time for which they are already paid by the public sector.” These principles will apply in appointing members to the Committee.
Meetings held in public
As part of its commitment to openness, a minimum of four meetings per year are held in public, and any interested member of the public or press can attend. NIFAC will also hold a closed strategic session each year. During the course of each themed meeting there is an opportunity for members of the public to ask questions of speakers and Committee members. These meetings are held at the FSA’s office in Belfast, however Committee meetings may also be held throughout Northern Ireland, and members must be willing to travel accordingly. Discussions that deal with internal Committee business such as organisational issues and future workplans, are generally held at the Committee’s annual retreat and are conducted in closed session.
Hybrid meetings are offered where necessary, but meeting face to face is always the preferred option.
The role involves a time commitment of 20 days per year, including Committee meetings and preparation time. The Committee currently meets 8 times per year. Some meetings will be open to the general public.
All reasonable expenses for travel and subsistence will be reimbursed.
The appointment will be for 3 years, renewable for a further term on the recommendation of the Chair and subject to satisfactory performance during the initial period of office. The final decisions on appointments and re-appointments are made by the Minister of Health. No one can normally serve for more than two terms under the Commissioner for Public Appointments Northern Ireland (CPANI) guidelines.
The Committee is looking for individuals who meet the following essential criteria:
- Ability to think and act both strategically and analytically
- Have good judgement, a high level of integrity and public responsibility, coupled with the ability to work as part of the Committee, leaving personal views behind
- Ability to interpret and communicate information effectively orally, in writing and through a variety of media channels
- Candidates must have background experience in a Northern Ireland context in at least 1 of the following areas:
- The food industry (agricultural to retail)
- Public health
- Consumer interests
- Education (in a relevant subject matter)
- Food and Agricultural Science
Should shortlisting be required, this will be done based on those who have more than one of the above.
In all of these, preference will be given to those most able to help deliver the Agency’s Strategic Plan as part of a collegiate structure. The appointment will take into account the balance of skills on the Committee. The FSA Strategy for 2022 to 2027 can be found on the FSA’s website.
Public appointments are based on the principles of merit and equal opportunities, with independent assessment, openness and transparency of process. NIFAC is committed to achieving diversity amongst its members. Applications are welcomed from suitably qualified people, regardless of age, disability, gender reassignment, marriage and civil partnership, pregnancy and maternity, race, religion or belief, sex, or sexual orientation, who are able to represent the interests of the public of Northern Ireland.
Applications are particularly welcome from people under 30 years of age, members of ethnic minorities and people with disabilities, as these groups are currently underrepresented in the Committee.
The Appointment Process – How to apply
The Food Standards Agency in Northern Ireland must receive completed applications by 4pm on 5th December 2023.
The application form and equal opportunities questionnaire can be downloaded for completion below. Please note that reference to a C.V. instead of providing answers is not an acceptable response.
The appointment process will be carried out in line with guidance issued by the CPANI. One of the key principles of this guidance is selection based on merit, and with the aim of achieving a balance of relevant skills and backgrounds on the committee concerned.
The process will be overseen and evaluated by a panel which will select a number of candidates for interview. Candidates will be advised whether they have been selected for interview following a sift. It is planned that the interviews will take place in January 2024. Interviews will take place in person at the FSA offices in Belfast.
After interview the panel will make their recommendation to the Minister of Health who will decide whom to appoint from amongst those considered to be appointable.
The successful candidate will commence their appointment at an appropriate time thereafter as agreed with the Committee Chair. Successful applicants who are not appointed immediately may be kept on a reserve list for 1 year to help fill future vacancies on the Committee. In the event that there is no Minister of Health in the absence of the Northern Ireland Executive, the appointment recommendation will be made to the Permanent Secretary at the Department of Health.
The selection panel will identify for interview those who most closely fit the criteria. Where it is appropriate to shortlist for interview, the desirable criteria will be applied. At each stage the selection panel will have regard for the need for a balanced Committee in terms of diversity, skills and experience.
Should you have any queries, please contact Michael Sewell, Food Standards Agency in Northern Ireland, on 07356 100284 or by email Michael.Sewell@food.gov.uk
Forms and attachments
Annex A – Guidance notes for applicants
You are asked to provide an example(s) which demonstrate that you meet each of the selection criteria for this appointment. The information you provide will allow the selection panel to make an assessment of the extent to which you meet the various criteria. The information you provide will be used for shortlisting, assessment and selection purposes. All relevant sections should be completed. Please ensure your completed application form is legible.
Many people are not used to writing about themselves or thinking about what they have done as opposed to what a team has done. It is important that you think about your role and what you have done individually, either on your own or as a team member. You should clearly explain your personal involvement in any experience you quote. Write “I” statements e.g. I managed a budget, I arranged a meeting. It is how you carried out a piece of work that the panel will be interested in.
You need to understand the relationship between the examples you will use and the relevant selection criteria. In addition you should bear in mind the following points:
- you should not simply list the various posts that you have held. The selection panel cannot make assumptions as to your skills, knowledge and experience from the title of posts held;
- you should use simple and easy to understand language in your examples to describe what you have done, rather than technical jargon or abbreviations;
- use actual examples, rather than ‘how you would do something’;
- you can use examples from your working life, or from your personal life, including any voluntary or community work you are or have been involved in;
- avoid statements that describe your personal beliefs or philosophies – focus on specific challenges and results;
- if possible, quantify/qualify your accomplishments;
- describe what you did and how you behaved – if your example includes activities undertaken by a team, focus on your role and not that of the team as a whole.
The key is to give the reader specific information about how well you meet the criteria for appointment. Think about your knowledge, skills, experience and personal attributes and make sure you take full advantage of the space available to provide practical evidence that best demonstrates how you meet the selection criteria.
The following model may help you to structure your examples and express them in a logical manner:
Situation: Briefly outline the situation.
Task: What was your objective? What were you trying to achieve?
Action: What did you actually do? What was your unique contribution?
Result: What happened? What was the outcome? What did you learn?
Annex B – The Seven Principles of Public Life
Holders of public office should take decisions solely in terms of the public interest. They
should not do so in order to gain financial or other material benefits for themselves, their
family, or their friends.
Holders of public office should not place themselves under any financial or other obligation to outside individuals or organisations that night influence them in the performance of their official duties.
In carrying out public business, including making public appointments, awarding contracts,
or recommending individuals for rewards and benefits, holders of public office should make
choices on merit.
Holders of public office are accountable for their decisions and actions to the public and must submit themselves to whatever scrutiny is appropriate to their office.
Holders of public office should be as open as possible about all the decisions and actions that they take. They should give reasons for their decisions and restrict information only when the wider public interest clearly demands.
Holders of public office have a duty to declare any private interests relating to their public duties and to take steps to resolve any conflicts arising in a way that protects the public interests.
Holders of public office should promote and support these principles by leadership and example.