Northern ireland office equality scheme




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Economic appraisal


An economic appraisal is a systematic process for examining alternative uses of resources, focusing on assessment of needs, objectives, options, costs benefits, risks, funding and affordability and other factors relevant to decisions.

Equality impact assessment


The mechanism underpinning Section 75, where existing and proposed policies are assessed in order to determine whether they have an adverse impact on equality of opportunity for the relevant Section 75 categories. Equality impact assessments require the analysis of both quantitative and qualitative data.

Equality of opportunity


The prevention, elimination or regulation of discrimination between people on grounds of characteristics including sex, marital status, age, disability, religious belief, political opinion, dependants, race and sexual orientation. The promotion of equality of opportunity entails more than the elimination of discrimination. It requires proactive measures to be taken to secure equality of opportunity between the categories identified under Section 75.

Equality scheme


A document which outlines a public authority’s arrangements for complying with its Section 75 obligations. An equality scheme must include an outline of the public authority’s arrangements for carrying out consultations, screening, and equality impact assessments, monitoring, training and arrangements for ensuring access to information and services.

Good relations


Although not defined in the legislation, the Commission has agreed the following working definition of good relations: ’the growth of relations and structures for Northern Ireland that acknowledge the religious, political and racial context of this society, and that seek to promote respect, equity and trust, and embrace diversity in all its forms’.

Mainstreaming equality


The integration of equal opportunities principles, strategies and practices into the every day work of public authorities from the outset. In other words, mainstreaming is the process of ensuring that equality considerations are built into the policy development process from the beginning, rather than being bolted on at the end. Mainstreaming can help improve methods of working by increasing a public authority’s accountability, responsiveness to need and relations with the public. It can bring added value at many levels.

Mitigation of adverse impact


Where an equality impact assessment reveals that a particular policy has an adverse impact on equality of opportunity, a public authority must consider ways of delivering the policy outcomes which have a less adverse effect on the relevant Section 75 categories; this is known as mitigating adverse impact.

Monitoring


Monitoring consists of continuously scrutinising and evaluating a policy to assess its impact on the Section 75 categories. Monitoring must be sensitive to the issues associated with human rights and privacy. Public authorities should seek advice from consultees and Section 75 representative groups when setting up monitoring systems. Monitoring consists of the collection of relevant information and evaluation of policies. It is not solely about the collection of data, it can also take the form of regular meetings and reporting of research undertaken. Monitoring is not an end in itself but provides the data for the next cycle of policy screening.

Northern Ireland Act


The Northern Ireland Act, implementing the Good Friday Agreement, received Royal Assent on 19 November 1998. Section 75 of the Act created the statutory equality duties.

Northern Ireland Human Rights Commission


A statutory body established under Section 68 of the Northern Ireland Act

1998, which works to ensure that the human rights of everyone in Northern



Ireland are fully protected in law, policy and practice.

Northern Ireland Statistics & Research Agency (NISRA)


The Northern Ireland Statistics and Research Agency (NISRA) is an Executive Agency within the Department of Finance and Personnel (DFP). They provide statistical and research information regarding Northern Ireland issues and provide registration services to the public in the most effective and efficient way.

OFMDFM


The Office of the First Minister and Deputy First Minister is responsible for providing advice, guidance, challenge and support to other NI Civil Service Departments on Section 75 issues.

PAFT


The Policy Appraisal and Fair Treatment (PAFT) Guidelines constituted the first non-statutory attempt at mainstreaming equality in Northern Ireland in January 1994. The aim of the PAFT Guidelines was to ensure that issues of equality and equity informed policy making and activity in all spheres and at all levels of government. PAFT has now been superseded by Section 75 of the Northern Ireland Act 1998.

Policy


The formal and informal decisions a public authority makes in relation to carrying out its duties. Defined in the New Oxford English Dictionary as ‘a course or principle of action adopted or proposed by a government party, business or individual’. In the context of Section 75, the term policies covers all the ways in which a public authority carries out or proposes to carry out its functions relating to Northern Ireland. Policies include unwritten as well as written policies.

Positive action


This phrase is not defined in any statute, but the Equality Commission understands it to mean any lawful action that a public authority might take for the purpose of promoting equality of opportunity for all persons in relation to employment or in accessing goods, facilities or services (such as health services, housing, education, justice, policing). It may involve adopting new policies, practices, or procedures; or changing or abandoning old ones. Positive action is not the same as positive discrimination. Positive discrimination differs from positive action in that positive action involves the taking of lawful actions whereas positive discrimination involves the taking of unlawful actions. Consequently, positive action is by definition lawful whereas positive discrimination is unlawful.

Qualitative data


Qualitative data refers to the experiences of individuals from their perspective, most often with less emphasis on numbers or statistical analysis. Consultations are more likely to yield qualitative than quantitative data.

Quantitative data


Quantitative data refers to numbers, typically derived from either a population in general or samples of that population. This information is often analysed by either using descriptive statistics, which consider general profiles, distributions and trends in the data, or inferential statistics, which are used to determine ‘significance’ either in relationships or differences in the data.

SACHR


The Standing Advisory Commission on Human Rights (SACHR) has now been replaced by the Northern Ireland Human Rights Commission. SACHR, as part of its review of mechanisms in place to promote employment equality and reduce the unemployment differential, recommended that the PAFT Guidelines should be made a statutory requirement.

Screening


The procedure for identifying which policies will be subject to equality impact assessment, and how these equality impact assessments will be prioritised. The purpose of screening is to identify the policies which are likely to have a minor/major impact on equality of opportunity so that greatest resources can be devoted to improving these policies. Screening requires a systematic review of existing and proposed policies.

Schedule 9


Schedule 9 of the Northern Ireland Act 1998 sets out detailed provisions for the enforcement of the Section 75 statutory duties, including an outline of what should be included in an equality scheme.

Section 75


Section 75 of the Northern Ireland Act provides that each public authority is required, in carrying out its functions relating to Northern Ireland, to have due regard to the need to promote equality of opportunity between:-


  • persons of different religious belief, political opinion, racial group, age, marital status and sexual orientation;

  • men and women generally;

  • persons with a disability and persons without; and

  • persons with dependants and persons without.

Without prejudice to these obligations, each public authority in carrying out its functions relating to Northern Ireland must also have regard to the desirability of promoting good relations between persons of different religious belief, political opinion or racial group.



Section 75 investigation


An investigation carried out by the Equality Commission, under Schedule 9 of the NI Act 1998, arising from the failure of a public authority to comply with the commitments set out in its approved equality scheme.
There are two types of Commission investigation, these are as follows:


  1. An investigation of a complaint by an individual who claims to have been directly affected by the failure of a public authority to comply with its approved equality scheme;

  2. An investigation initiated by the Commission, where it believes that a public authority may have failed to comply with its approved equality scheme.

Appendix 6: Action plan/action measures (NOVEMBER 2013 – OCTOBER 2014)



Action Measure and Criteria Measurement

Expected result

Responsibility

Target

Communicating and assisting the understanding of Section 75 duties to Central Government Departments as appropriate when issues arise in the course of the NIO’s work in assisting communication between Central Government and the Devolved Administration, and supporting Central Government Departments operating in Northern Ireland on excepted and reserved matters.


Wider and more effective engagement with Section 75 duties by Central Government Departments

Deputy Director Constitutional and Political Group

Review Annually

Working with wider Government and the Northern Ireland Executive Departments to promote good relations by visiting all sections of the community and engaging with the broader political and civic society when organising Secretary of State, Ministerial and VIP visits.


Any opportunities to further promote the interests of Section 75 groups will be identified and acted upon.
Promotion of good relations.


Deputy Director Constitutional and Political Group

Review Annually




Action Measure and Criteria Measurement

Expected result

Responsibility

Dates

We will ensure that the Department takes a fully human rights compliant approach, and gives meaningful consideration to implications of activities on Section 75 groups in exercising the Secretary of State’s powers under the Justice and Security Act 2007 in relation to the implementation of security measures, including conducting annual reviews.

Assurance that our response is proportionate and that due consideration is given to any potential impacts on Section 75 groups.
Increased protection and safety from terrorist attack across Section 75 groups while respecting human rights and equality issues.


Deputy Director Security Group

Review Annually

In line with our objective to provide appropriate protection for those at risk, we will assess all initial applications to the Home Protection Scheme in a just and equal manner within the terms of the laid down criteria of the Scheme, and monitor the Scheme to ensure compliance with Section 75.


Assurance that protective security measures are applied fairly across Section 75 groups.

Deputy Director Security Group

Review Annually




Action Measure and Criteria Measurement

Expected result

Responsibility

Dates

Conduct annual analysis of the outcomes of the Staff Engagement Survey to determine whether or not any issues / trends have emerged which would provide opportunities to better meet the Department’s Section 75 responsibilities


Any opportunities to further promote the interests of Section 75 groups within and across NIO staff will be identified and acted upon


Deputy Director Strategy & Comms Group

Review Annually

Monitor staff grievance procedures to ensure that any action which might be taken to improve Section 75 outcomes for staff is acted upon



Any opportunities to further promote the interests of Section 75 groups within and across NIO staff will be identified and acted upon


Deputy Director Business Delivery Group

Review Annually

We will ensure that all NIO staff undertake regular refresher training on equality and diversity issues.


Increased awareness of equality and diversity amongst all staff.

Deputy Director Business Delivery Group

Review Annually

Continue to promote good relations and support integration of people from a wide range of cultural and community backgrounds through the facilitation of citizenship ceremonies at Hillsborough Castle

Promotion of good relations

Deputy Director Strategy & Comms Group

Review Annually

In developing HR policies, the Department will give particular consideration to the extent to which these support and promote the interests of Section 75 groups


NIO HR policies will, as appropriate, take account of the needs of Section 75 groups.



Deputy Director Business Delivery Group

Review Annually




1 See chapter 1 of the Equality Scheme.

2Section 98 (1) of the Northern Ireland Act 1998.

3 See Chapter 6 of our equality scheme for further information on alternative formats of information we can provide.

4 Please see page 19 for details on monitoring.

5 Mitigation – Where an assessment (screening in this case) reveals that a particular policy has an adverse impact on equality of opportunity and / or good relations, a public authority must consider ways of delivering the policy outcomes which have a less adverse effect on the relevant Section 75 categories.

6 See Section 98 of the Northern Ireland Act 1998, which states: “In this Act…”political opinion” and “religious belief” shall be construed in accordance with Article 2(3) and (4) of the Fair Employment & Treatment (NI) Order 1998.”

7 ibid

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