The divergence in policy-making between the four UK governments has again been highlighted during the pandemic, with each nation taking its own route out of lockdown. Those differences have been felt not only within the political landscape, but in how policy makers have worked with communities and civil society leaders over the past year.

How does civil society’s relationship with government vary across the four nations? What insights can we gain by examining these differences? Are there lessons we could learn about what drives closer connections?

Joined by David Sterling, former Head of the Northern Ireland Civil Service, Kate Young, Director of the All Wales Forum for Parents and Carers, and Theresa Shearer, CEO of the ENABLE Group, The Law Family Commission on Civil Society will explore the relationship between civil society and government, particularly over the course of the pandemic, in each of the devolved nations.

This live event from the Law Family Commission on Civil Society will contain plenty of opportunities for the audience to ask their questions of our expert panel.

The Law Family Commission on Civil Society is an ambitious programme of ground-breaking research into how we can unleash the potential of civil society, to harness and enhance the powerful community bonds that exist in our nation.

It will provide tangible ideas for policy-makers, companies, philanthropists and social sector organisations to tackle the systemic challenges that are stopping civil society delivering on its potential.


David Sterling spent his career in the Northern Ireland Civil Service (NICS) working in a variety of roles.

In recent years, he was Permanent Secretary in the Department of Enterprise, Trade and Investment from October 2009 until June 2014.

David was then Permanent Secretary in the Department of Finance from July 2014 until June 2017 when he was promoted to be Head of the NICS, a role from which he retired on 31 August 2020. The devolved institutions were in suspension from the time of his appointment until the resumption of the Executive and Assembly in early January 2020. The main issues he had to deal with during his time as Head of the NICS were the challenge of delivering public services in the absence of ministers, preparing for Brexit, facilitating the resumption of devolved government and dealing with the Covid-19 Pandemic.

He is currently the Chair of the Chief Executives’ Forum in Northern Ireland and a board member of a number of charities: Ulster Wildlife, the Cancer Fund for Children, the Centre for Cross Border Studies and Women in Business NI.

Kate Young is currently the Director of the All Wales Forum of Parents and Carers, which is the national network for family carers of people with learning disabilities, engaging with over 4,000 families across Wales.

She holds the Vice Chair of Wales Carers Alliance, the role of Health and Social Care representative for the Third Sector Partnership Council, sits on the Ministerial Advisory Groups for both Carers and People with a Learning Disability and also serves on a wide range of other Welsh Government policy groups. These include cross cutting issues such as Social Care Planning and Recovery, the current Vaccine Stakeholder Board and the attached Vaccine Equity Board and Advisory Groups around the social care, health and third sector workforces. Kate is also a Board member for WCVA.

She is a passionate advocate of rights and personal choice, with a particular interest in learning disability and carers. As a sibling carer to her brother who lives with severe learning disabilities and autism, she has a personal understanding and lived experience of the social model of disability and of the inequality issues within society in Wales.

Theresa Shearer is Group CEO of the ENABLE Group, which supports over 4,500 individuals and families living with learning disabilities or with additional support needs.

Theresa has led a national campaign to deliver the Living Wage to social care employees for all hours worked, influenced the development of Scotland’s Self-Directed Support policy and chaired the redesign of Scotland’s fundraising regulatory framework, which resulted in the Independent Fundraising Standards and Adjudication Panel for Scotland. In 2016, following concerns about large cross-border and international charities she was invited, as the Scotland observer, to join the UK Fundraising Regulator board, where she ultimately supported the establishment of the UK regulator.

She is vice convenor of the Scottish Council for Voluntary Organisations, a director of Inclusion Europe, is a member of Young Scot’s advisory council and was invited to join the Royal Society of Edinburgh’s Post-Covid-19 Futures Commission Inclusive Public Service Working Group. Theresa is one of 16 commissioners of the UK-wide Law Family Commission on Civil Society and chairs the IoD Scotland Awards judging panel.

Booking for this event has now closed.