Northern ireland office equality scheme




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Assessing the impact of policies on the promotion of equality of opportunity





    1. In the context of Section 75, ‘policy’ is very broadly defined and it covers all the ways in which we carry out or propose to carry out our functions in relation to Northern Ireland. In respect of this equality scheme, the term policy is used for any (proposed/amended/existing) strategy, policy initiative or practice and/or decision, whether written or unwritten and irrespective of the label given to it, for example, ‘draft’, ‘pilot’, ‘high level’ or ‘sectoral’.




    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, as required by Schedule 9 9.(2) to the Northern Ireland Act 1998.




    1. The NIO uses the tools of screening and equality impact assessment to assess the likely impact of a policy on the promotion of equality of opportunity and good relations. In carrying out these assessments we will relate them to the intended outcomes of the policy in question and will also follow Equality Commission guidance:




  • Section 75 of the Northern Ireland Act 1998 – A Guide for Public Authorities (April 2010); and

  • Practical guidance on equality impact assessment (February 2005)



Screening





    1. The purpose of screening is to identify those policies that are likely to have an impact on equality of opportunity and/or good relations. Screening is completed at the earliest opportunity in the policy development/review process. Policies which we propose to adopt will be subject to screening prior to implementation.




    1. The lead role in the screening of a policy is taken by the policy decision maker who has the authority to make changes to that policy. However, screening will also involve other relevant team members, for example, the equality manager, those who implement the policy and staff members from other relevant work areas.




    1. The following questions are applied to all our policies as part of the screening process:




  • What is the likely impact on equality of opportunity for those affected by this policy, for each of the Section 75 equality categories? (minor/major/none)

  • Are there opportunities to better promote equality of opportunity for people within the Section 75 equality categories?

  • To what extent is the policy likely to impact on good relations between people of a different religious belief, political opinion or racial group? (minor/major/none)

  • Are there opportunities to better promote good relations between people of a different religious belief, political opinion or racial group?




    1. In order to answer the screening questions, we will gather all relevant information and data, both qualitative and quantitative. In taking this evidence into account we consider the different needs, experiences and priorities for each of the Section 75 equality categories. Any screening decision will be informed by this evidence .




    1. Completion of screening, taking into account our consideration of the answers to all four screening questions set out above, will lead to one of the following three outcomes:




  1. the policy has been ‘screened in’ for equality impact assessment

  2. the policy has been ‘screened out’ with mitigation5 or an alternative policy proposed to be adopted

  3. the policy has been ‘screened out’ without mitigation or an alternative policy proposed to be adopted.




    1. If the screening concludes that the likely impact of a policy is ‘minor’ in respect of one, or more, of the equality of opportunity and/or good relations categories, we may on occasion decide to proceed with an equality impact assessment, depending on the policy. If an EQIA is not to be conducted we will nonetheless consider measures that might mitigate the policy impact as well as alternative policies that might better achieve the promotion of equality of opportunity and/or good relations.




    1. Where we mitigate we will outline in our screening template the reasons to support this decision together with the proposed changes, amendments or alternative policy. This screening decision will be ‘signed off’ by the appropriate policy lead.




    1. If our screening concludes that the likely impact of a policy is ‘major’ in respect of one, or more, of the equality of opportunity and/or good relations categories, we will normally subject the policy to an equality impact assessment. This screening decision will be ‘signed off’ by the appropriate policy lead.




    1. If our screening concludes that the likely impact of a policy is ‘none’, in respect of all of the equality of opportunity and/or good relations categories, we may decide to screen the policy out. If a policy is ‘screened out’ as having no relevance to equality of opportunity or good relations, we will give details of the reasons for the decision taken. This screening decision will be ‘signed off’ by the appropriate policy lead.




    1. As soon as possible following the completion of the screening process, the screening template will be signed off and approved by the senior manager responsible for the policy. Screening documents will normally be published on our website every six months and made available on request by contacting:

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




    1. If a consultee, including the Equality Commission for Northern Ireland or other relevant regulatory bodies, raises a concern about a screening decision based on supporting evidence, we will review the screening decision.




    1. Our screening policies will be published six monthly [see below at 4.21-4.22 and 4.23 for details]. A summary of screening reports carried out will be included in the annual Section 75 progress report.



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