Northern ireland office equality scheme




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Process for consultation





    1. We are committed to carrying out consultation in accordance with the following principles (as contained in the Equality Commission’s guidance ‘Section 75 of the Northern Ireland Act 1998 – A Guide for Public Authorities (April 2010)’).




    1. All consultations will seek the views of those directly affected by the matter/policy, the Equality Commission, representative groups of Section 75 categories, other public authorities, voluntary and community groups, NIO staff and their trades unions and such other groups who have a legitimate interest in the matter, whether or not they have a direct economic or personal interest. A list of the NIO’s consultees can be found at Appendix 3.




    1. When consulting on any matter to which this Scheme relates, the Department will normally notify (by email or post) all consultees listed at Appendix 3, as a matter of course. Thereafter, and if appropriate, consultation may involve face-to-face meetings, advisory groups, surveys, consultative panels, internet discussions or other ways of engaging with stakeholders. Thereafter, to ensure the most effective use of our and our consultees‘ resources, we will take a targeted approach to consultation for those consultees that may have a particular interest in the matter/policy being consulted upon and to whom the matter/policy is of particular relevance.




    1. Consultation with all stakeholders will begin as early as possible. We will engage with affected individuals and representative groups to identify how best to consult or engage with them. We will ask our consultees what their preferred consultation methods are and will give consideration to these. Methods of consultation could include face-to-face meetings; written documents with the opportunity to comment in writing; questionnaires or telephone consultations.




    1. This list is not exhaustive and we may develop other additional methods of consultation more appropriate to key stakeholders and the matter being consulted upon.




    1. The NIO will consider the accessibility and format of every method of consultation we use in order to remove barriers to the consultation process. In this regard, the NIO will take account of existing and developing good practice, including the Equality Commission’s guidance Let’s Talk Let’s Listen – Guidance for public authorities on consulting and involving children and young people (2008). Information will be made available, on request, in alternative formats3, in a timely manner. We will ensure that such consultees have equal time to respond.



Consultation period





    1. The consultation period normally lasts for a minimum of twelve weeks to allow adequate time for groups to consult amongst themselves as part of the process of forming a view. However, in exceptional circumstances when this timescale is not feasible (for example when dealing with emergency measures, or international, legally-binding deadlines, or when the consultation needs to fit into fixed timetables such as the electoral cycle), we may shorten timescales to eight weeks or less before the policy is implemented. We may continue consultation thereafter and will review the policy as part of our monitoring commitments4.




    1. Where, under these exceptional circumstances, we must implement a policy immediately, as it is beyond our authority’s control, we may consult after implementation of the policy, in order to ensure that any impacts of the policy are considered.




    1. If a consultation exercise is to take place over a period when consultees are less able to respond, for example, over the summer or Christmas break, or if the policy under consideration is particularly complex, we will give consideration to the feasibility of allowing a longer period for the consultation.




    1. The NIO is conscious of the fact that affected individuals and representative groups may have different needs. The NIO will take appropriate measures to ensure full participation in any meetings that are held. We will consider, for example, the time of day, the appropriateness of the venue, in particular whether it can be accessed by those with disabilities, how the meeting is to be conducted, the use of appropriate language, whether a signer and/or interpreter is necessary, and whether the provision of childcare and support for other carers is required.




    1. We make all relevant information available to consultees in appropriate formats to ensure meaningful consultation. This includes detailed information on the policy proposal being consulted upon and any relevant quantitative and qualitative data.




    1. In making any decision with respect to a policy adopted or proposed to be adopted, we take into account any assessment and consultation carried out in relation to the policy.




    1. The NIO will provide feedback to consultees in a timely manner. A feedback report is prepared which includes summary information on the policy consulted upon, a summary of consultees’ comments and a summary of our consideration of and response to consultees’ input. The feedback is provided in formats suitable to consultees.




    1. We welcome enquiries from any person/s or organisations wishing to be added to the list of consultees. Please contact the NIO at the details below to provide your contact details and have your areas of interest noted or have your name/details removed or amended. Please also inform us at this stage if you would like information sent to you in a particular format or language.

Corporate Governance Team

Stormont House

Stormont Estate

Belfast

BT4 3SH
equality.scheme@nio.x.gsi.gov.uk


Tel: 028 9076 5497

Text phone: 028 9052 7668



Chapter 4: Our arrangements for assessing,

monitoring and publishing the impact of policies

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