Equality Scheme 2008 - 2011

DRAWN UP IN ACCORDANCE WITH SECTION 75 OF

THE NORTHERN IRELAND ACT 1998

and approved by the Equality Commission for Northern Ireland on 27 February 2008

Northern Ireland Assembly Commission
Room 103
Parliament Buildings
Stormont
BT4 3XX

This draft Scheme is available on disk, in large print and can be made available in Braille, in minority languages or on an audiocassette by contacting the office at the address below.

This Scheme is also available on the Assembly Commission's website.

Office of the Assembly Commission
Room 54
Parliament Buildings
Stormont
BT4 3XX

E-mail: equality@niassembly.co.uk
Tel: 028 90418388
Textphone: 028 90521209
Fax: 028 90 418340

FOREWORD

Section 75 of the Northern Ireland Act 1998 requires public authorities, in carrying out their functions, relative to Northern Ireland, to promote equality of opportunity and good relations between a range of groups. Public Authorities, as defined by the legislation, are required to send an Equality Scheme to the Equality Commission, showing how they intend to carry out their duties.

As Chair to the Assembly Commission and Clerk/Director General of the Northern Ireland Assembly Secretariat we are pleased on behalf of the corporate body to support this Equality Scheme which arises out of the implementation of Section 75 of the Northern Ireland Act 1998.

Commitments made in the Equality Scheme refer to how the Northern Ireland Assembly Commission carries out all its functions relating to Northern Ireland. The Northern Ireland Assembly Commission is committed to ensuring that all necessary resources (in terms of people, time and money) are made available to support the effective promotion of equality of opportunity and good relations in all its policies. This also includes making sure there are effective internal arrangements in place to ensure that the duties are effectively complied with and for monitoring and reviewing progress.

The Northern Ireland Assembly Commission will actively seek to develop a programme of communication and training with the aim of ensuring all staff are made aware and understand the new equality obligations. The purpose of this Equality Scheme is to set out how the Northern Ireland Assembly Commission will fulfil the statutory duties.

 

Speaker signature

The Speaker of the Northern Ireland Assembly

Carol Devon sig

The Interim Clerk/ Director General

CONTENTS

Foreword

1.0 INTRODUCTION

2.0 DUTIES AND RESPONSIBILITIES

3.0 ARRANGEMENTS FOR ASSESSING COMPLIANCE WITH SECTION 75 DUTIES
Organisational Arrangements
Progress Reporting
Consultation
Complaints
Review of the Scheme

4.0 CONSULTATION

5.0 ASSESSING THE IMPACT OF POLICIES ON THE PROMOTION OF EQUALITY OF OPPORTUNITY
Screening
Prioritisation & Timetabling
Screening Report
The Conduct of Equality Impact Assessments

6.0 PUBLIC ACCESS TO INFORMATION AND SERVICES

7.0 TRAINING AND COMMUNICATION

8.0 IMPLEMENTING THE SCHEME
Publication of the Scheme
Timetable for Implementing the Scheme

APPENDIX 1: ORGANISATIONAL CHART
APPENDIX 2: LIST OF ORGANISATIONS TO BE CONSULTED
APPENDIX 3: COMMENTS RECEIVED FROM CONSULTATION WITH THE ORGANISATION'S RESPONSE
APPENDIX 4: MAIN GROUPS RELEVANT TO THE SECTION 75 CATEGORIES FOR NORTHERN IRELAND PURPOSES
APPENDIX 5: ACTION PLAN FOR IMPLEMENTING EQUALITY SCHEME
APPENDIX 6: LIST OF FUNCTIONAL AREAS AND POLICY DETAILS IDENTIFIED IN 2002
APPENDIX 7: MACRO POLICY AREAS IDENTIFIED FROM SCREENING EXERCISE IN 2002

1.0 INTRODUCTION

1.1 Section 75 of the Northern Ireland Act 1998 (‘the Act’) requires the Northern Ireland Assembly Commission in carrying out all its functions, powers and duties 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 or sexual orientation;
  • between men and women generally;
  • between persons with a disability and persons without; and
  • between persons with dependants and persons without.

1.2 Also, without prejudice to its obligation above, the Northern Ireland Assembly Commission will, in carrying out its functions, power and duties relating to Northern Ireland have regard to the desirability of promoting good relations between persons of different religious belief, political opinion or racial group.

1.3 Schedule 9 of the Act requires the Northern Ireland Assembly Commission to set out in an Equality Scheme how the Assembly Commission proposes to fulfil the duties imposed by Section 75. This scheme has been developed to satisfy that statutory requirement.

2.0 DUTIES AND RESPONSIBILITIES
The Assembly Commission and Organisational Structure

2.1 The Assembly Commission finds its statutory basis in Section 40 and Schedule 5 of the Northern Ireland Act 1998. As the body corporate, it is responsible for providing the property, services and staff required for the Assembly’s purposes. It has four principal roles. These are:

  • The allocation of resources;
  • The provision of property to support the Members, support staff and secretariat staff for a fully functioning Assembly;
  • The provision of services; and
  • The provision of a fully staffed Secretariat to support the administration of the Assembly.
Functions

2.2 In exercising the above roles the Assembly Commission carries out the following functions:

  • The acquisition and maintenance of premises and equipment to provide suitable accommodation, facilities and support services in which a fully functioning Assembly can operate; and
  • The recruitment and ongoing development of suitably qualified and experienced staff to support the Assembly.
Membership

2.3 The Northern Ireland Assembly Commission membership comprises of the Speaker to the Northern Ireland Assembly as Chair and five other members appointed by the Northern Ireland Assembly. Current membership is:

  • Mr William Hay (Speaker)
  • Mr Stephen Moutray (DUP)
  • Mr Paul Butler (SF)
  • Reverend Robert Coulter (UUP)
  • Mr Alban Maginness (SDLP)
  • Mr Sean Neeson ( Alliance)
Clerk to the Assembly/Director General

2.4 The Assembly Secretariat is led by the Clerk to the Assembly/Director- General, who is a full-time Assembly official. This dual role confers the following responsibilities:

2.4.1 as the Clerk to the Assembly he/she is the principal adviser to the Speaker and the Assembly on procedural matters;

2.4.2 as the Director-General he/she manages the Assembly staff, co-ordinates the essential procedural and corporate support services and acts as Accounting Officer for the Assembly’s budget.

Interim Management Board

2.5 The Senior Management Board includes the following officers:

  • Clerk to the Assembly/Director-General
  • Director of Clerking
  • Director of Resources
  • Director of Engagement
  • Director of Properties
  • Director of Implementation

3.0 ARRANGEMENTS FOR ASSESSING COMPLIANCE WITH SECTION 75 DUTIES

Organisational Arrangements

3.1 The Northern Ireland Assembly Commission is committed to the fulfilment of its Section 75 obligations in all parts of its work. Statutory Responsibility for the effective implementation of the Scheme lies with the Interim Clerk to the Assembly/Director General, Mrs Carol Devon.

3.2 The Clerk to the Assembly will be accountable to the Northern Ireland Assembly Commission for the development, maintenance and review of the Scheme in accordance with the legislation, including any good practice or guidance that may be issued by the Equality Commission.

3.3 Responsibility for driving forward implementation of the equality scheme and the point of contact within the Northern Ireland Assembly Commission will be,

Name: Tony Logue
Title: Assembly Clerk
Address: Room 107, Parliament Buildings, Stormont BT4 3XX
Tel No: 0044 28 90 521930
Fax No: 0044 28 90 418340
Textphone: 0044 28 90 521209
E Mail: equality@niassembly.gov.uk

3.4 Tony Logue will report regularly to the Interim Management Board (IMB) and respond to any queries for all those affected by the statutory duties.

3.5 Objectives and targets relating to the statutory duties will be integrated into the Northern Ireland Assembly Commission’s strategic and operational plans. Staff who are directly engaged in this work will include implementation of the statutory duties in their personal performance plans, which are subject to appraisal in the annual performance review. In addition, a commitment to the statutory duties will be included in all job descriptions. Progress on meeting the range of objectives will be monitored and reported upon to the Interim Management Board on a quarterly basis.

Progress Reporting

3.6 The Northern Ireland Assembly Commission will conduct an Annual Review of Progress in relation to the implementation of the Equality Scheme, in complying with the statutory duties. The Northern Ireland Assembly Commission will forward a report of this review to the Equality Commission by 30 June each year. This report, which will follow any guidance on annual reporting issued by the Equality Commission, will also be included in the Northern Ireland Assembly Commission ’s annual report.

3.7 Moreover, the Northern Ireland Assembly Commission will liaise closely with the Equality Commission to build a close working relationship so that progress on the implementation of the Scheme is maintained.

Consultation

3.8 The Northern Ireland Assembly Commission acknowledges the emphasis on consultation in the development and implementation of the Scheme, and is committed to full and meaningful consultation on its Equality Scheme, screening, equality impact assessments and monitoring arrangements. Details of this commitment are set out in the following section.

Complaints

3.9 When a complaint is made on the grounds that the Northern Ireland Assembly Commission has failed to comply with the Scheme, the point of contact will be

Name : Tony Logue
Title: Assembly Clerk
Address: Room 107,
Parliament Buildings,
Stormont
BT4 3XX

Tel No: 028 90 521930
Fax No: 028 90 418340
E Mail: equality@niassembly.gov.uk

3.10 This Officer will carry out an internal investigation of the complaint and respond to the complainant within one month. During this process, the complainant will be kept fully informed of the procedures for dealing with the complaint under Schedule 9 of the Northern Ireland Act. The Northern Ireland Assembly Commission will also undertake to provide assistance to any complainant who requires information in a format that ensures equality of opportunity.

3.11 In any subsequent investigation by the Equality Commission, the Northern Ireland Assembly Commission will co-operate fully, providing access to any relevant documentation that the Equality Commission may require. Similarly, the Northern Ireland Assembly Commission will co-operate fully with any investigation by the Equality Commission under sub-para 11 (1) (b) of Schedule 9 to the Northern Ireland Act 1998.

Review of the Scheme

3.12 The Northern Ireland Assembly Commission will conduct a thorough review of the Scheme within three years of its approval by the Equality Commission. This review will evaluate the effectiveness of the Northern Ireland Assembly Commission in meeting its Section 75 obligations. In undertaking this review the Northern Ireland Assembly Commission will follow any guidance issued by the Equality Commission. A report of this review will be made public and sent to the Equality Commission.

It is intended that a review of this Scheme will be undertaken to comply with final recommendations arising from the Review of Section 75 that was carried out in 2007.

4.0 CONSULTATION

4.1 The Northern Ireland Assembly Commission recognises the importance of consultation in all aspects of the implementation of its statutory equality duties. It affirms that all consultation will be carried out in accordance with the Equality Commission’s Guiding Principles as detailed in its ‘Guide to Statutory Duties’ (Blue Section 2c). In particular, it will endeavour to conduct all consultations in a timely, open and inclusive way in accordance with the Equality Commission’s Guiding Principles.

4.2 The Northern Ireland Assembly Commission will consult as widely as possible to ensure that any organisation or group which has a legitimate, particular interest in its work and /or the likely impact of its policies on the promotion of equality of opportunity and good relations will be included in the process of engagement.

Those Being Consulted

4.3 A list of those being consulted on matters relevant to the Northern Ireland Assembly Commission ’s equality duties, including screening and equality impact assessments and the Scheme itself, is detailed in Appendix 2. The list is not exhaustive and may be amended and reviewed throughout the lifetime of the equality scheme to promote inclusive consultation. The Northern Ireland Assembly Commission welcomes enquiries from any organisation wishing to be added to the list of consultees, and should contact Kevin Kerr in the Assembly Commission Office (see page 38 for contact details) to have their interest noted.

4.4 The Northern Ireland Assembly Commission will include the Equality Commission, the Community Relations Council, voluntary groups, community groups, trade union groups and other groups with a legitimate interest in the matter, including those directly affected, in all consultations whether or not they have a direct economic or social interest in the work of the Northern Ireland Assembly Commission. Organisations representing the various categories included in Section 75 will also be included in any consultation carried out. The Equality Commission will be included in all consultations whether on equality scheme, screening or equality impact assessment.

Timescale for Consultation

4.5 In order to facilitate meaningful consultation, the Northern Ireland Assembly Commission will ensure that consultation with groups and individuals will begin as early as possible.

4.6 The Northern Ireland Assembly Commission is conscious that some groups will need sufficient time to consult among themselves in order that their contributions to any consultation may be informed. All consultations will aim to allow a period of at least twelve weeks except in emergencies. Such situations will include:

  • policies which have to be implemented urgently to protect health and safety;
  • policies which have to be implemented urgently to comply with court judgements.

4.7 The Northern Ireland Assembly Commission wishes to minimise the number of exceptions to good practice guidelines on the timescale for consultation. When exceptions do occur, the Northern Ireland Assembly Commission will report such instances. Exceptions to the normal twelve week consultation period will be monitored, kept under review, justified very clearly and reported by the Northern Ireland Assembly Commission in its annual report to the Equality Commission.

Procedures for Ensuring Inclusive Consultation

4.8 In consulting on any matter to which this scheme relates, the Northern Ireland Assembly Commission will engage with affected and umbrella groups from the Section 75 categories in order to identify how best to consult or engage with stakeholders and obtain their views. This may involve face-to-face meetings, advisory groups, surveys, consultative panels, Internet discussions and other innovative ways of consulting as there will be different means of consultation for different groups and it will be important to establish the basis for dialogue and engagement during the life of the scheme.

4.9 It is intended that barriers to proper consultation will be removed by ensuring that language is as clear as possible. Systems will be established to make presentations on this Scheme, if requested, available in an appropriate format to representatives of people with learning disabilities, minority community language speakers, people with disabilities, young people, and Travellers.

4.10 To ensure the highest level of inclusivity in any policy decision-making, information will be made available in consultation with groups affected by Section 75. Systems will be in place to ensure that information will be available on request in accessible formats in a timely fashion such as Braille, disc, and audiocassette and in minority languages to meet the needs of those who are not fluent in English.

4.11 Extra consideration will be given to ensuring that all consultations reflect the needs of young people and those with learning disabilities through the provision of accessible formats in a timely manner. The Northern Ireland Assembly Commission will liaise with representatives of young persons and learning disability organisations in the first place (by correspondence/direct communication) and take account of good practice elsewhere (e.g. Lead Report/MENCAP’s guidance on accessible formats), in order to reflect the needs of these groups in consultations.

4.12 The Northern Ireland Assembly Commission believes it is especially important that sufficient timely and appropriate information is provided to enable all affected groups and individuals to consider the full implications of proposals, and it will take steps to ensure this. This will include quantitative and qualitative data that the Northern Ireland Assembly Commission holds or has collated, and other documents such as consultants’ reports. This will apply to all consultations.

4.13 Specific training will be arranged for secretariat staff undertaking consultation exercises to ensure they have the necessary skills to communicate effectively. Any training delivered will be developed in consultation with relevant Section 75 groups.

4.14 Steps will also be taken to ensure full participation in any consultation meetings that are held. The Northern Ireland Assembly Commission will consider the time of day, the suitability of the venue, whether it can be accessed by those with disabilities, how the meeting is to be run, the use of languages other than English, whether a signer is needed, and childcare arrangements and recognise and in good faith meet access related costs.

5.0 ASSESSING THE IMPACT OF POLICIES ON THE PROMOTION OF EQUALITY OF OPPORTUNITY

Screening

Background

5.1The Order designating the Assembly Commission as a public authority was signed by the Secretary of State on 14 January 2003. In anticipation of this, an Equality Scheme Working Group was established in 2002 to examine all aspects for the development of an Equality Scheme.

5.2 In the course of their work a total of 47 policies were identified for screening purposes. Policy areas outlined as part of the 2002 exercise are attached at Appendix 6. From this exercise five macro areas were identified. Details are attached at Appendix 7. Unfortunately further development work could not progress as the Northern Ireland Assembly was suspended on the 14 October 2002.

5.3 To take account of the time elapsed and organisational developments during the last four years, it is the intention of the Northern Ireland Assembly Commission to carry out a formal policy screening exercise following approval of this equality scheme.

Screening Arrangements

5.4 The Northern Ireland Assembly Commission is committed to carrying out a systematic review of all its existing and new/proposed policies to determine whether there are any equality of opportunity implications.

5.5 The definition of a ‘policy’ under the Equality Commission’s Guide to the Statutory Duties has a wide remit and includes policies relating to all functions and activities, including internal policies. The Northern Ireland Assembly Commission will monitor the implementation of a policy that it operates on behalf of another public authority, and will work in partnership with other bodies where such a policy is subject to an equality impact assessment.

5.6 The Northern Ireland Assembly Commission will consider the impact of each current and new/proposed policy on equality of opportunity in terms of the nine categories listed at Section 75 of the Act when considering which policies will be subject to equality impact assessment. A systematic review of each policy is required and the Northern Ireland Assembly Commission will take the following steps when screening:

  • identify all policies, written and unwritten;
  • internally appraise the significance of equality of opportunity and good relations for each policy, taking account of the screening criteria and prioritisation factors detailed below;
  • produce a list detailing policies to be subject to equality impact assessment, together with a draft timetable for conducting the assessments. This should take account of the need to join up equality impact assessments of related policies;
  • consult with Section 75 groups to seek their views on whether all policies have been identified, whether all equality impacts have been identified, and whether they agree with the list of policies to be subject to equality impact assessment and the proposed timetable;
  • consider and take account of feedback from the consultation exercise;
  • provide information to consultees on the conclusions reached following the initial consultation on screening, on amendments made to the list of policies, and on the final equality impact assessment timetable, in a screening report.

5.7 For each policy the following criteria will be applied:

  • is there any indication or evidence of higher or lower participation or uptake by different groups*?
  • is there any indication or evidence that different groups have different needs, experiences, issues and priorities in relation to the particular policy?
  • have previous consultations with relevant groups, organisations or individuals indicated that particular policies create problems that are specific to them?
  • is there an opportunity to better promote equality of opportunity or good relations by altering the policy or working with others in government or in the larger community?
* The main groups within each of the nine categories are identified at Appendix 4.

If the answer to any of these four questions is yes, consideration will be given to whether to subject the policy to the equality impact assessment procedure.

Evidence

5.8 The Northern Ireland Assembly Commission will make arrangements to obtain relevant information, whether quantitative or qualitative, so that it can clearly demonstrate why a policy is screened in for impact assessment or screened out as not requiring an equality impact assessment.

5.9 Evidence may include information from the Northern Ireland Assembly Commission’s own information management systems, including service monitoring and complaints handling systems, or from engagement in research, surveys or consultation exercises. Information may also be sourced from commissioned research or from research produced by other public authorities, representative groups, umbrella groups, and trades unions or universities. Information from consultation exercises on previous equality impact assessments, or those undertaken by other public authorities within the same sector will also be considered. Anecdotal evidence, feedback from service users and affected groups or ongoing experience within the authority will also be considered.

Prioritisation & Timetabling

5.10 Having screened existing policies or new policies using the four criteria set out above, a view must then be reached on prioritising policies for equality impact assessment. Priorities may be established based on factors such as:

  • Social need;
  • effect on people’s daily lives;
  • effect on economic, social and human rights;
  • significance of the policy in terms of expenditure;
  • significance of the policy in terms of strategic importance.

5.11 An initial timetable will be developed setting out a programme and timescale for equality impact assessments, see appendix 5. The Northern Ireland Assembly Commission will annually provide a list of new and proposed policies identifying policies included and excluded for equality impact assessment to consultees. New policies identified for equality impact assessment will be incorporated into the overall timetable as appropriate.

Screening Report

5.12 A detailed report of the screening exercise will be provided to consultees and included in the Annual Report sent to the Equality Commission. The report will include details of: (1) those policies which will be subject to equality impact assessment, (2) those policies proposed by those consulted, as appropriate for impact assessment, but have not been subsequently included – giving a explanation for this course of action, (3) the factors for prioritising assessments, and (4) the timetable for equality impact assessments.

5.13 Consultation on screening will allow at least twelve weeks, and will comply with the Equality Commission’s ‘Guiding Principles of Consultation’. Consultations will seek the views of the Equality Commission, representative groups of Section 75 categories, other public authorities, voluntary groups, community groups, Trade Unions and other groups with a legitimate interest in the matter including those directly affected by the policy whether or not they have a direct economic or personal interest (see Appendix 2).

The Conduct of Equality Impact Assessments

5.14 All equality impact assessments carried out will be conducted in accordance with all the procedures outlined in Annex 1 of the Equality Commission’s ‘Guide to the Statutory Duties’.

5.15 In common with other aspects of the statutory equality duties, the Northern Ireland Assembly Commission will ensure that any equality impact assessment will be subject to consultation. All consultations will seek the views of the Equality Commission, representative groups of Section 75 categories, other public authorities, voluntary groups, community groups, Trade Unions and other groups with a legitimate interest in the matter whether or not they have a direct economic or personal interest and those directly affected by the policy (see Appendix 2).

5.16 In making any decision on a current or proposed policy, the Northern Ireland Assembly Commission will take into account any relevant equality impact assessment and the outcome of associated consultation.

Monitoring Adverse Impact and Access to Services

5.17 A system will be established to monitor the impact of policies and access to services across all functions in order to identify their effects on the relevant groups and ensure equality of opportunity. This system will involve:

  • an audit of existing information systems within one year of approval of the scheme, similar to that included in Appendix 4 of the Commission’s Practical Guidance on EQIA, to identify the extent of current monitoring and a plan to address any gaps so that impacts can effectively be monitored through equality impact assessments.
  • the collection and collation of existing relevant primary quantitative and qualitative data across all nine equality categories on an ongoing basis;
  • the collection and collation of existing relevant secondary sources of quantitative and qualitative data across all nine equality categories on an ongoing basis;
  • identifying where more detailed data is needed in order to have the necessary information on which to base decisions; and
  • undertaking or commissioning new data if necessary.

5.18 If over a two year period monitoring and evaluation show that a policy results in greater adverse impact than predicted, or if opportunities arise which would allow for greater equality of opportunity to be promoted, the Northern Ireland Assembly Commission will ensure that the policy is revised.

5.19 This system will be reviewed on an annual basis and the results will be published as part of the Northern Ireland Assembly Commission’s annual report to the Equality Commission. In all cases relating to the holding of monitoring information or the collection of data, the Northern Ireland Assembly Commission will act sensitively in accordance with Equality Commission guidance and the wishes of representatives from S75 organisations.

Publication of Equality Impact Assessments and Monitoring

5.20 The Northern Ireland Assembly Commission will make publicly available the outcome of any equality impact assessment and of any monitoring undertaken to measure the adverse impact of policies. Systems will also be established to make available, on request, impact assessments in accessible formats and a timely fashion (i.e. Braille, disk, audio cassette and minority languages) from

Name: TONY LOGUE
Title: Clerk to the Assembly Commission
Address: Room 107, Parliament Buildings, Stormont BT4 3XX
Tel No: 028 90 521930
Fax No: 028 90 418340
Textphone: 028 90 521209
E Mail: equality@niassembly.gov.uk

5.21 Extra consideration will be given to ensure that young people and those with learning disabilities are able to access impact assessments in a timely fashion.

5.22 The Northern Ireland Assembly Commission will inform the general public about the availability of this material through public relations such as press releases and media coverage. It will also directly inform bodies listed in Appendix 2 when this material is available and it will place information in publications associated with Section 75 categories.

5.23 All published information will comply with guidance outlined by the Equality Commission in its ‘Guide to Statutory Duty’ (Section 1). The Northern Ireland Assembly Commission will publish information on equality impact assessments that:

  • includes the aims of the policy to which the assessment relates;
  • details any consideration given to mitigating adverse impact of the policy on the promotion of equality of opportunity; and
  • details any consideration given to the consideration of alternative policies which might better achieve the promotion of equality of opportunity.

6.0 PUBLIC ACCESS TO INFORMATION AND SERVICES

6.1 The Northern Ireland Assembly Commission is committed to ensuring that the information it disseminates and the services it provides are made accessible to ensure equality of opportunity. It is aware that some groups will not have the same access to information as others. These include:

  • children and young people who may have difficulties in accessing or understanding information;
  • people with sensory and learning disabilities that may have difficulties with information in print;
  • members of minority ethnic groups, whose first language is not English, and who may have difficulties with information provided only in English.

Consideration will be given on how to provide accessible information in a timely manner to all these groups.

6.2 The Northern Ireland Assembly Commission will, within a year of approval of this scheme, review its arrangements for providing information in Braille, large print, audio cassette and minority ethnic language formats. The assessment will take account of:

  • the statutory requirements of the Disability Discrimination Act 1995; the likely demand for information of various formats across its main policy areas;
  • the resource implications and recommendations from the Northern Ireland cross-departmental Promoting Social Inclusion (PSI) working groups on minority ethnic people and on access to information.

6.3 The review will make recommendations on how public access to information can be better ensured by improving arrangements for providing information in different formats and languages. The Northern Ireland Assembly Commission will ensure that it will publicise the current situation, the findings of its review, and any proposed changes to any aspect of information and services to such groups and individuals.

6.4 In disseminating information through the media, the Northern Ireland Assembly Commission will seek to advertise in the press. This arrangement will be kept under review, in terms of promoting wide access throughout the implementation of statutory equality duties. The Northern Ireland Assembly Commission intends that all of its services are fully accessible to all parts of the community in Northern Ireland.

6.5 The Northern Ireland Assembly Commission will ensure that no section of the community is deterred from visiting Parliament Buildings, for whatever reason. Parliament Buildings will maintain a welcoming and harmonious environment. The Northern Ireland Assembly Commission will adhere to relevant provisions of the Disability Discrimination Act 1995.

7.0 TRAINING AND COMMUNICATION

7.1 The Northern Ireland Assembly Commission will ensure that an effective communication and training programme will be developed for all staff. A series of targets for the implementation of the commitment to training and communication will be outlined in Equality Scheme Action Plan section of this document (Appendix 5).

7.2 In order to share resources and expertise, the Northern Ireland Assembly Commission will work closely with other bodies and agencies in the development and delivery of training.

Training

7.3 The Northern Ireland Assembly Commission will draw up a detailed training plan for all its staff over the 3 year period to which this Scheme refers which will aim to achieve the following objectives:

  • to raise awareness of current anti-discrimination legislation, including the provisions of Section 75 and Section 76 of the Northern Ireland Act 1998. This will include an explanation of the duties and their implications for all employees;
  • to provide those employees involved in screening of policies with the necessary skills and knowledge to do this work effectively;
  • to provide those employees involved in the equality impact assessment of policies with the necessary skills and knowledge to do this work effectively;
  • to provide those employees who deal with complaints in relation to the implementation of the Northern Ireland Assembly Commission’s Scheme, with the necessary skills and knowledge to investigate and monitor complaints effectively;
  • to provide those employees involved in consultation processes with the necessary skills and knowledge to do this work effectively;
  • to provide those employees involved in the implementation and monitoring of the effective implementation of the Northern Ireland Assembly Commission ’s Equality Scheme to do this work effectively; and
  • to evaluate the extent to which all participants in this training programme have acquired the necessary skills and knowledge to achieve each of the above objectives.

7.4 A report indicating the extent to which training objectives have been met will be reported on as part of the Annual Review of the implementation of the statutory duties, which will be sent to the Equality Commission.

7.5 All staff in the Assembly Secretariat will receive training within one year of the approval of the Scheme (including those being inducted). Thereafter focused training will be provided for all specialist staff within the Northern Ireland Assembly Commission, and specific training will also be provided for those engaged in consultation.

7.6 All training will be developed in association with the appropriate Section 75 groups.

7.7 The Speaker as Chairman to the Assembly Commission and the Clerk as Director General wish to positively communicate the commitment of the Northern Ireland Assembly Commission to the statutory duties (both internally and externally). The Northern Ireland Assembly Commission will:

  • develop a summary of the Scheme and make it available to all staff ;
  • provide access to copies of the full Scheme for all staff;
  • ensure that the Northern Ireland Assembly Commission’s commitment to the statutory duties are made clear in Northern Ireland Assembly Commission publications (such as the Annual Report); and
  • will ensure that any queries or questions of clarification from staff are addressed effectively.

8.0 IMPLEMENTING THE SCHEME

Publication of the Scheme

8.1 Following submission to the Equality Commission, this scheme will be available in print form and alternative formats free on request from the Office of the Assembly commission.

8.2 The following arrangements will be made for the publication of the Scheme and to ensure equality of access:

  • the Scheme will be available on request in formats such as Braille, disc, and audiocassette and in minority languages to meet the needs of those not fluent in English;
  • systems will be in place to ensure that requests for the Scheme in accessible formats will be dealt within a timely manner;
  • specific consideration will also be given to how best to communicate the Scheme to young people and those with learning disabilities;
  • the Northern Ireland Assembly Commission will develop a plain English summary of the Scheme;
  • a press release and a prominent advertisement in the press will be placed by the Northern Ireland Assembly Commission whenever the Scheme is approved by the Equality Commission;
  • a copy of the Scheme will also be posted on the Northern Ireland Assembly website; and
  • copies of the approved Scheme will also be sent to key stakeholders.

 

Timetable for Implementing the Scheme

8.3 Appendix 5 outlines an action plan for implementing the Scheme including date milestones and performance indicators for each task.

APPENDICES

APPENDIX 1: ORGANISATIONAL CHART

APPENDIX 2: LIST OF ORGANISATIONS TO BE CONSULTED

APPENDIX 3: COMMENTS RECEIVED FROM CONSULTATION WITH THE ORGANISATION'S RESPONSE

APPENDIX 4: MAIN GROUPS RELEVANT TO THE SECTION 75 CATEGORIES FOR NORTHERN IRELAND PURPOSES

APPENDIX 5: ACTION PLAN FOR IMPLEMENTING EQUALITY SCHEME

APPENDIX 6: LIST OF FUNCTIONAL AREAS AND POLICY DETAILS IDENTIFIED IN 2002

APPENDIX 7: MACRO POLICY AREAS IDENTIFIED FROM SCREENING EXERCISE IN 2002

 

Assembly Commission

Assembly Commission

Assembly Commission

Assembly Commission

Assembly Commission

APPENDIX 2: LIST OF ORGANISATIONS TO BE CONSULTED

The following is a list of those public authorities, voluntary, community, trade union and other groups who the Assembly Commission considers may have an interest in its work. The Assembly Commission has sought to identify as many groups as possible but recognises that the list is not exhaustive and may be amended in the light of experience.

A

ACOVO
Age Concern Northern Ireland
Alliance Party
Al-Nur Craigavon Asian Association
Amalgamated Transport and General Workers Union (AT&GWU)
Association for Spina Bifida and Hydrocephalus

B

Baptist Union of Ireland
Barnardos
Belfast Hebrew Congregation
Belfast Islamic Centre
Belfast Travellers Education and Development Group
Bryson House

C

Carafriend
Care for Northern Ireland
Carers NI
Children in NI
Children’s Law Centre
Chinese Chamber of Commerce
Chinese Welfare Association
Church of Ireland
Coalition of Sexual Orientation (COSO)
Committee on the Administration of Justice
Community Development and Health Network NI
Community Relations Council
Counteract

D

Democratic Unionist Party
Derry Well Woman
Disability Action
Down’s Syndrome Association

E

East Belfast Community Development Agency
Employers’ Forum on Disability
Equality Coalition
Equality Commission NI
Equality Forum NI

F

Falls Community Council
FPA

G

Gingerbread Northern Ireland
GMB
Green Party

H

Help the Aged, Northern Ireland

I

Indian Community Centre
Independent Health Coalition

L

Lesbian Line

M

Magherafelt Women’s Group
MENCAP (Royal Society for Mentally Handicapped Children and Adults)
Methodist Church in Ireland
Multicultural Group – Windsor Women’s Centre
Multi-Cultural Resource Centre

N

NIACRO
NIC – ICTU
NIGRA ( Northern Ireland Gay Rights Association)
NIPSA ( Northern Ireland Public Service Alliance)
NIPPA
NISRA ( Northern Ireland Statistics and Records Agency)
NI Anti-Poverty Network
NI Association for Mental Health
Newry and Mourne Senior Citizens Consortium
Newry and Mourne Women Ltd
Newtownabbey Senior Citizens Forum
Northern Ireland African Cultural Centre
Northern Ireland Council for Ethnic Minorities (NICEM)
Northern Ireland Council for Integrated Education
Northern Ireland Council for Voluntary Action (NICVA)
Northern Ireland Filipino Association
Northern Ireland Human Rights Commission (NIHRC)
Northern Ireland Mediation Service
Northern Ireland Unionist Party
Northern Ireland Women’s Aid Federation
Northern Ireland Women’s Coalition
Northern Ireland Women’s European Platform (NIWEP)
Northern Ireland Youth Forum
North West Community Network
North West Forum of People with Disabilities
NSPCC
NUS – USI

O

Office of the First Minister and Deputy First Minister
Oi Kwan Chinese Women Group ( Belfast Base)
Omagh Women’s Area Network

P

Parents and Professionals and Autism
PHAB Northern Ireland
Presbyterian Church in Ireland
Press for Change
Probation Board for Northern Ireland
Progressive Unionist Party

R

Roman Catholic Church
Royal National Institute of Deaf People (NI)
Royal National Institute for the Blind (NI)
Rural Community Network

S

Save the Children
Sense NI
Sinn Fein
Skill NI
Social Democratic and Labour Party
Staff Commission for Local Government

T

The Cedar Foundation
The Community Relations Council
The Guide Dogs for the Blind Association
The Rainbow Project
The Women’s Centre
Traveller Movement Northern Ireland

U

Ulster – Scots Agency
Ulster Teachers Union (UTU)
Ulster Unionist Party
Unison

W

West Belfast Economic Forum
West Belfast Partnership
Women’s Forum Northern Ireland
Women’s Information Group
Women’s Resource and Development Agency (WRDA)
Women’s Support Network

Y

Youth Action Northern Ireland
Youth Council for Northern Ireland
Youth Link Northern Ireland
Youthnet

If your group has not been included, and you wish to be included in future consultation exercises, please contact:

Name: KEVIN KERR
Address: Room 103,
Parliament Buildings,
Stormont
BT4 3XX

Tel No: 028 90 418388
Fax No: 028 90 418340
Textphone: 028 90 521209
E Mail: equality@niassembly.gov.uk

APPENDIX 3: COMMENTS RECEIVED FROM CONSULTATION WITH THE ORGANISATIONS RESPONSE

Respondent

Issue

Comment

NI Assembly Commission response

SINN FEIN

Commitments

One of the key recommendations of the S.75 Effectiveness Review was around the issue of screening whereby it emerged that in practice, many public bodies were incorrectly using the screening process as a means of carrying out a de-facto mini EQIA and therefore not progressing to an EQIA itself. This led to public bodies not complying properly with Equality Commission guidelines and indeed with the legislation of the NI Act 1998. Many proposed policies were accordingly, and inappropriately, screened out when they should have progressed to an EQIA.

The Equality Commission rightly highlights this fundamental flaw which undermines S.75 in its response to the Effectiveness Review. We would therefore like to see the Assembly Commission’s commitment to a thorough and transparent screening process in this draft equality scheme being emphasised in a more prominent position in any final Equality Scheme. We are generally content with the Commission’s step-by-step approach to screening as laid out in this draft scheme however if screening continues to be treated as a bureaucratic tick-box exercise – yet another finding of the Effectiveness Review – then no amount of process will guarantee the changes we need in our society to ensure equality of opportunity.

The Northern Ireland Assembly Commission is committed to undertaking an effective screening process in line with existing and any future guidance issued by the Equality Commission. The results of the screening process and a resultant EQIA timetable will be issued for consultation to all interested parties. The Northern Ireland Assembly Commission will ensure that the process is thorough and transparent.

 

 


point (4)

In welcoming the commitment to conducting EQIA’s on those policies identified as having significant impact on equality of opportunity we would specifically welcome in any final Equality Scheme a commitment that high level strategies/policies will be subjected to the full rigor of an EQIA as appropriate.

All high level policies/strategies will be subject to the screening exercise and if it is considered that the policy will have a significant impact on equality of opportunity in respect of Section 75 groups a full equality impact assessment will be undertaken.

 


point (5)

Regarding the establishment of a system to monitor the impact of policies on relevant section 75 categories we would have a concern around the two-year period suggested being set in stone. According to Equality Commission guidelines, any policy can be reviewed at any time following its introduction in order to assess whether it is fit for purpose i.e. whether it is achieving the degree of equality of opportunity it was originally intended to achieve or whether greater equality of opportunity can be achieved. Reviewing a policy allows for flexibility to adjust the policy to ensure that equality of opportunity is being given its fullest enhancement. This is how, effectively, Section 75 can be utilized as a living instrument to achieve equality of opportunity. Could you please clarify the Commission’s reasoning here with regard to the inclusion of a two-year threshold for reviewing policies as it would seem to be out of step with the Equality Commission’s guidelines. Obviously our further concern is that a two-year timeframe could, inadvertently, lead to a bad policy continuing to have an adverse impact on one or several S.75 categories for a much longer period than necessary before it can be rectified.

The two year target for monitoring the impact of policies was suggested by the Equality Commission in their template, however if we find that a policy is having an impact on any relevant Section 75 groups we would take appropriate action to mitigate against any negative impact.

 


point (8)

In there is a commitment given that the Assembly Commission will review the scheme within “five years”. It is our understanding that the Equality Commission has also recommended that public bodies should now begin to submit to them for approval 3-yearly Equality Schemes to ensure that schemes dove-tail into the natural cycles of Corporate and/or Business Plans. The Assembly Commission may need to adjust this point to reflect the Equality Commission’s recommendations.

We welcome the point that the outcome of any review undertaken by the Assembly Commission will be made public & we would suggest that briefings are conducted with MLA’s, advisors and PA’s as an additional means of communication

The five year review period was in line with a previous Equality Commission recommendation. This has recently been changed to three years and will coincide with business/corporate planning cycle. The Equality Scheme will be amended to reflect this.

The Assembly Commission Office would welcome the opportunity to provide appropriate briefing sessions for MLAs & their staff

 


3.7 Progress Reporting

With regard to the issue of developing a training programme for all staff -to ensure they are made aware of the new equality obligations - we would suggest the Commission also undertakes to provide specific training to all MLA’s on the Assembly Commission with respect to the implementation of these new equality obligations. We strongly believe this would be an effective and efficient use of resources.

We welcome the commitment to liaise closely with the Equality Commission to ensure that progress is being made. The report should have a particular breakdown on the targets, actions & outcomes that have resulted from the Commission’s work programme. We would suggest that for the purposes of full transparency that minutes between the Assembly Commission & Equality Commission are taken & circulated to the Assembly Commissioners on a regular basis to allow for an integrated approach to matters arising on monitoring, review, implementation & enforcement

Following the review of Section 75 (recommendation 14), it has been recommended that training on equality of opportunity and good relations is placed on a mandatory footing for all elected representatives. This will be further explored following publication of the final report on the Review of Section 75.

The Assembly Commission will be fully briefed on progress of the Equality Scheme at each stage and of any discussions with the Equality Commission. We have provided a commitment, within the action plan, to report progress to the Assembly Commission on a quarterly basis.

 


3.10 and 3.11 Complaints

We would ask the Assembly Commission to provide a commitment to provide the Equality Commission with all information regarding the issue of complaint and to specify how quickly the Assembly Commission intends to respond to any Equality Commission request for information (i.e. specify whether days, weeks, monthly etc.,). We believe this would be a crucial area to have clarified for public purposes. It has been our experience that with regard to raising complaints with public bodies in the first instance and then the Equality Commission in the second instance that the Commission has encountered significant foot-dragging to get access to information in a prompt and comprehensive fashion. Other groups and organisations have experienced similar problems with regard to the complaints process.

We are not suggesting that the Assembly Commission has acted in this manner. We make the point that unless there is prompt & thorough follow-through to requests for information from either from the public, the Equality Commission or other relevant authority regarding the investigation of complaints there will be a risk of obstructing the legitimate investigative powers of the Commission while damaging public confidence in the processes designed to safeguard equal opportunity.

The Assembly Commission takes the issue of complaints very seriously and will respond to any request at the earliest opportunity.

Under the current customer service standards we endeavour to respond to all correspondence within 1 month and every effort will be made to ensure that this is maintained.

 


4.2 Consultation

While welcoming a commitment to consult as “widely as possible” perhaps this could be strengthened by stating that the consultation will focus on being meaningful and appropriate to those being consulted. We welcome the commitment to weigh and evaluate the views of those being consulted in consideration of any proposed policy. It has again been raised during the Effectiveness Review of S.75 that there has been considerable consternation arising among public consultees at the lack of actual feedback and justification that is provided on policies which may not have received public support during consultations. The Assembly Commission in its final Equality Scheme should maybe elaborate further on how it intends to inter-act to ensure that the public understands the methodology of weighing that is given during the assessment process around consultation responses submitted in order to be more transparent and accountable.

Sinn Fein would also like it clearly spelt out in any final Equality Scheme that should consultants be commissioned to engage in any of the Commission’s business around policy development and EQIA process that it becomes a matter of standard practice that such consultants undertake the equality responsibilities of the Commission itself. In other words, we need to be assured that consultants being used with regard to public consultation or engaged in drawing up proposals for the Commission’s consideration, are fully alert to and compliant with the scope of the S.75 duties in every aspect but that ultimately, it is the responsibility of the Assembly Commission to ensure this standard is fully upheld

In addition to the normal consultation procedures we are in the process of forming an external equality working group which will comprise of stakeholders from each of the Section 75 groups. The terms of reference of this group will include providing feedback on screening of policies and timetables for conducting equality impact assessments. It is our intention that this group will inform any subsequent consultation exercise that will allow for a more meaningful and targeted approach.

As our obligations under Section 75 cannot be transferred to a private sector provider, the Assembly Commission will consider the likely impact of the duties on the procurement process for engaging consultants. We are aware that the Equality Commission are considering a consultation report on “Draft Guidance on Equality and Sustainable Development Considerations in Public Sector Procurement”. Any recommendations arising from this guidance will be considered. It is not currently envisaged that consultants will be engaged to undertake any work required under the Equality Scheme, except for training of staff, but if required this will be subject to established procurement procedures which encourage general equality good practice through the use of contract terms. e.g. to comply with all applicable fair employment and equality legislation including Section 75 .

 


4.7 Timescale for Consultation

If there is to be less than a 12-week consultation period the Assembly Commission should proactively seek advice beforehand with the Equality Commission. It is not good practice in our view to simply report on these exceptions in the annual reports of the Assembly Commission and Equality Commission. We would also ask the Assembly Commission to try to avoid holding any major public consultation exercises at periods when the community and voluntary sector in particular – who have less capacity than other sectors anyway - are on extended public holidays i.e. the July and August periods are particularly problematic in securing the necessary feedback.

We particularly welcome the commitment to extra consideration being given to the needs of young people and those with learning disabilities in the consultation process and to the accessibility of formats they require. This is best practice and something which the Children’s sector and NGO’s representing them have been arguing for extensively

It is the intention of the NI Assembly Commission to comply with the 12 week consultation period. We will aim to avoid consultation exercises during the summer months unless this is unavoidable.

 


5.6 and 5.8 Screening

We welcome the process as laid out & note & welcome that a screening report will be provided.

We note and welcome 5.8 re: Evidence wherein there is a commitment to making arrangements to obtain relevant information, quantitative or qualitative, “so that it can clearly demonstrate why a policy is screened in for impact assessment or screened out as notrequiring an equality impact assessment.” Again, with reference to the findings of the Effectiveness Review of S.75 it emerged that there is substantial lack of evidence coming forward on the part of public bodies to demonstrate where policies have practically benefited the quality of life across the section 75 categories. We believe it is necessary that in monitoring reports and annual reports to the Assembly Commission and the Equality Commission that this should form a key part of any feedback so that the outcomes and impact of policies can be measured more effectively in order to, if necessary, be adjusted.

Noted.

 


General

We would also like to establish the status of how the Assembly Commission intends to deal with Flags and Emblems i.e. what the status is i.e. (written or unwritten) and whether this issue is scheduled for screening in the time ahead. We point this up specifically as there is reference in 6.5 which categorically states that “Parliament Buildings will maintain a welcoming and harmonious environment.” The categorical nature of this statement is questionable as there are a number of outstanding matters around flags, emblems and symbols which continue to mitigate against the objective of having a welcoming and harmonious environment for everyone which in our view need to be comprehensively and conclusively addressed in any final equality scheme.

As with all policies, this issue will be subject to the screening exercise. A full EQIA will be undertaken if it is deemed necessary. The results of the screening exercise and any equality impact assessments will be subject to a full consultation exercise.

ALLIANCE PARTY

General

The Alliance Party are pleased that there will be now greater transparency in how the Assembly Commission operates. We believe that there should never be any discrimination in any realm of our society by means of religion, gender, race, age, lifestyle or political opinion. We hope the Assembly Commission will carry out its duties without showing any of these forms of discrimination. The Alliance Party will make sure that its staff members are aware of the Equality Scheme.

The NI Assembly Commission is fully committed to equality of opportunity in all its policies and procedures.

NIPSA

1.0

The NIAES should recognise that there are only 2 categories which require monitoring – men and women. However each has multiple identities such as ethnic groupings, sexual orientation, disability, age, religion. Recommendation - The policy should not use the term ‘persons’ but rather ‘men and women’.

The NI Assembly Commission intend adopting our monitoring procedures in line with the specific Section 75 categories.

 


2.0

The NI Assembly to positively promote gender equality. Recommendation: All new policies to be gender proofed.

How will the NI Assembly ensure that there is equal representation in posts such as Deputy Speaker, Chairpersons, deputy Chairperson?

There are no women represented on the Assembly Commission membership – is the Commission addressing this issue under their proposed Equality Scheme?

All Commission policies will be screened in relation to all of the nine categories within S.75 which includes gender.

This is not a matter for the Commission. it is for the Assembly to elect Deputy Speakers and for political parties to appoint Committee Chairs in accordance with Standing Orders.

This is not a matter for the Commission, it is for the Assembly to appoint members of the Assembly Commission, in accordance with Standing Orders.

 


3.2

A review date should be stated – 5 years is too ‘woolly’

We will undertake to carry out a review at the end of three years in line with the most recent Equality Commission guidelines.

 


4.13 & 7.00

Equality awareness training to be given ALL staff – no one left out of the training. Training tailored to individual areas i.e. gender, sexual orientation, disability – not under one heading of ‘equal opportunity’.

Appropriate training will be given to all staff in the NI Assembly Secretariat.

 


6.1

Consideration will be given on how to provide accessible information in a timely manner to all these groups.

Question:How will the NI Assembly identify and consult with marginalised groups?

An external equality working group will be formed comprising of key stakeholders from each of the S.75 categories. It is expected that such a group will inform any consultation strategy developed throughout the lifetime of the Equality Scheme.

 


6.3 referring also to 3.2

it is vital that a review date is earlier than 5 years - the date should be included in the policy. Recommendation:Public access to information to be constantly monitored and modified.

We will undertake to carry out a review at the end of three years in line with the most recent Equality Commission guidelines. The NI Assembly Commission will monitor the use of information sources.

 


6.4

Recommendation: To utilise other forms of dissemination of information – example through NGO’s and trade unions.

The proposed external Equality Working Group will be a useful tool in disseminating information to interested parties. All other means of disseminating information will be used as appropriate.

 


7.0

Recommendation: An Equality Officer to be appointed to ensure the training and understanding of the equality scheme is cohesively delivered across the organisation. This should be a joint partnership between NIA and TUS.

The Northern Ireland Assembly Commission intend initiating a recruitment exercise to appoint an Equality Manager.

 


Other General Points

Policies adopted by NIA have not been gender proofed – this should be actioned;
Procurement procedures implemented under the Equality Scheme.
NI Assembly should recognise non formal qualifications such as experience – people may have been excluded from the formal education system for various reasons but have built up the skills experience needed;
There should be provision for women to ‘fast track’ after maternity leave;
Identify careers that do not require English as a first language – Research;
Part time position do not hinder careers; and
Incentives for men to take paternity leave.

All policies including procurement and recruitment policies will go through the screening process which includes gender proofing and a timetable will be agreed for conducting EQIA’s.

We currently recognise experience in our recruitment competitions.

Affirmative action measures will be considered where an imbalance has been identified.

 


Suggested amendments to Appendix 2 & 5

Appendix 2: New Organisation chart is needed to reflect the new structure.

Appendix 5: terminology ‘SMB’ to be amended throughout to Management Board

The Equality Scheme will be amended to reflect the revised structure when this is finalised.
The Equality Scheme will be amended to reflect the title of the new Management Board once it has been established.

 


Organisational Arrangements

Agree equality objectives with TUS. Objectives review annually in consultation with Management and TUS.

The Equality Scheme will be assessed and reviewed by the internal and external Equality Working groups and regular progress reports will issue to the Management Board and the Assembly Commission.

 


Progress Reporting

Quarterly reports by Equality Officer

There is a commitment to prepare quarterly progress reports for submission to the NI Assembly Commission.

 


Screening

Training provided to ALL managers.

All staff involved in the screening process will be given the appropriate training.

 


Training

Training programme agreed by Management Board and TUS. New staff to receive equality awareness training within 6 months of joining NIA.

Training programmes will be developed in consultation with Trade Union Side and will be submitted to the Interim Management Board for approval.

RNIB

General

We welcome the commitment to making all information fully accessible. If full inclusion is to be achieved, it is essential that:

Web sites are designed in accordance with Web Accessibility Initiative (WAI) standards;
A range of good quality alternative formats versions of all material is readily available;
Telephone information services are user friendly.

In this respect, we commend you for putting the Scheme on to your web site in html and not in pdf. As a general policy, pdf always presents some access problems, however well structured, and we always recommend the availability of an alternative such as MS Word or html. Many parts of the Northern Ireland Government have yet to heed this advice.
We also commend the commitment in the draft Equality Scheme to develop a comprehensive training and communications programme for staff. It will be important that all staff are aware how best to assist and support disabled visitors, MLA’s or colleagues.
RNIB Northern Ireland will be happy to work with you to develop any of these themes, either in the context of general policy discussions or in a business context.

There will shortly be a major redesign of the Assembly website and one of the requirements is that it should comply with WAI standards.

The Assembly is developing an Engagement Strategy which will address external communication issues.

We welcome the support of the RNIB

NI Women’s European Platform

1.0

In developing the Equality Scheme it is essential for organisations to recognise that there are only 2 categories which need to be monitored – men and women. Each of these categories have multiple identities such as ethnic groupings, sexual orientation, disability, age, religion etc. etc. The 4 categories identified under S75 are not disabled/ethnic people – they are disabled / ethnic women and men.

The NI Assembly Commission intend adopting our monitoring procedures in line with the specific Section 75 categories.

 


2.0

In reviewing those responsible for the NI Assembly’s functions the group with the most responsibility is the Commission but there are no women considering the population is 52% female and the majority of people employed in the Assembly are female.
NIWEP would suggest that in development of any new policies would be gender proofed and would reflect the diversity of people in Northern Ireland.
How does the Northern Ireland Assembly ensure gender equality in other post such as Deputy Speakers (no women), Committee Chairpersons (2 women), Committee Vice Chairpersons (2 women).

This is not a matter for the Commission it is for the NI Assembly to appoint members of the Assembly Commission in accordance with Standing Order 74.

All policies will be screened in relation to all of the nine categories within S.75 which includes gender.

This is not a matter for the Commission it is for the NI Assembly to elect Deputy Speakers and Committee Chairs in accordance with Standing Orders.

 


3.2

Review date should be stipulated and not just “within 5 years”

We will undertake to carry out a review at the end of three years in line with the most recent Equality Commission guidelines.

 


4.13 & 7.0

Staff training should be for all staff members. Knowledge can easily be lost, or worse, misinformation. No policies should be developed until all staff have been trained. Training should be tailored to individual areas to ensure an understanding instead of lumping it all under “equal opportunity” and in particular:

Gender training
Sexual orientation training
Disability training

Appropriate training will be given to all staff in the Assembly Secretariat.

 


6.1

It is not satisfactory the sentence ‘consideration’ will be given on how to provide accessible information in a timely manner to all these groups. The NIA should be putting forward its ideas of how to identify and consult with marginalised groups.

An external equality working group will be formed comprising of key stakeholders from the categories listed in S.75. In addition the Assembly Commission is developing an Engagement strategy to address external communication needs.

 


6.3

This backs the 3.2 need for the review to be earlier and to state when it will be reviewed as it is imperative that recommendations on how public access to information should be constantly monitored and modified

We will undertake to carry out a review at the end of three years in line with the most recent Equality Commission guidelines.
The Assembly will monitor the use of information sources.

 


6.4

The press are only one form of dissemination of information the NIA should consider through other mediums such as NGO’s and trade unions.

The external Equality Working Group will be a useful tool in disseminating information to interested parties. We fully intend engaging with trade unions and NGO’s.

 


7.0

The Northern Ireland Assembly should consider an Equality Officer to ensure the training and understanding is cohesively delivered across the organisation.

A specific Equality Manager post is currently under consideration.

 


Policies

The policies which have been adopted by the Northern Ireland Assembly have not been gender proofed and thus most will have an adverse impact on women. For example systems which have been developed over the years which do not take into consideration:
Recognising non formal qualifications such as extensive experience as gender and disability may exclude people from formal education system but who have the skills
‘Fast track career’ provision for women returning after maternity
Careers which do not require English as the first language
Part time positions for men and women which do not hinder their careers
Incentives for men to take paternity leave.

All policies will go through the screening process which includes gender proofing and a timetable will be agreed for conducting EQIA’s.

We currently recognise experience in our recruitment competitions.

Affirmative action measures will be considered where imbalances in the Section 75 groups (including gender) are identified in the Assembly’s workforce.

 

APPENDIX 4: MAIN GROUPS RELEVANT TO THE SECTION 75 CATEGORIES FOR NORTHERN IRELAND PURPOSES

Category

Main Groups

Religious belief

Protestants; Catholics; people of non-Christian faiths; people of no religious belief

Political opinion

Unionists generally; Nationalist generally; members/supporters of any political party

Racial group

White people; Chinese; Travellers; Indians; Pakistanis; Black people

Men and women generally

Men (including boys); women (including girls), Trans-gendered people, Transsexual people


Marital status

Married people; unmarried people; divorced or separated people; widowed people

Age

Children under 16; people of working age (16/65); people over 65

Persons with a disability

Persons with a physical, sensory or learning disability as defined in sections 1 and 2 and Schedules 1 and 2 of the Disability Discrimination Act 1995

Persons with dependants

Persons with personal responsibility for the care of a child; persons with personal responsibility for the care of a person with an incapacitating disability; persons with personal responsibility for the care of a dependant elderly person

Sexual orientation

Heterosexual people; homosexual people; bisexual people

APPENDIX 5 - ACTION PLAN FOR IMPLEMENTING EQUALITY SCHEME

Area of Implementation

Element

Performance Indicator

Milestone

Responsibility

Organisational Arrangements

  • Integration of equality objectives into directorate business plans
  • Integration of equality objectives into personal performance plans
  • IMB agrees equality objectives
  • Equality objectives included in business plans for 2007-2008
  • Equality objectives reviewed annually in consultation with IMB.
  • IMB agrees draft guidance for staff
  • Objectives included in personal performance plans
  • annually
  • annually

 

  • annually

 

  • ongoing
  • annually

Interim Management Board

 

 

 

 

Progress Reporting

 

  • Regular reports to Northern Ireland Assembly Commission
  • Annual reports to Equality Commission
  • Review of Scheme
  • Minuted reports at least quarterly
  • Report sent after approval by Assembly Commission
  • Report incorporated in Assembly Commission’s Annual Report
  • Review conducted, published and sent to Commission

 

  • ongoing
  • annually
  • annually
  • June 2011

Office of the Assembly Commission

Area of Implementation

Element

Performance Indicator

Milestone

Responsibility

Screening

  • Conduct Policy Audit
  • Carry out screening exercise for all policies identified in Policy Audit
  • Training provided to key personnel and full audit carried out
  • Finalise screening instrument and procedures, and pilot with sample of policies
  • Screening exercise completed in line with guidelines and criteria

 

  • Feb 2008
  • March 2008
  • April 2008

Office of the Assembly Commission

Consultation

 

  • Overview of Consultation

 

  • Meeting takes place to consider approach to consultation
  • Consultation initiated for Screening of policies in line with the 2 stage approach
  • Report of consultation on screening exercise to be included as part of annual report to Equality Commission
  • Consultation takes place on each Equality Impact Assessment

 

  • April 2008
  • April 2008

 

  • July 2008

 

 

  • To be confirmed following publication of timetable

Office of the Assembly Commission

Training

 

  • Training programme
  • Top Level briefing on Equality Scheme

 

 

  • Awareness training

 

 

 

  • Training programme agreed by Interim Management Board
  • Briefing on Equality Scheme for Commission members and Senior Managers takes place
  • All staff trained by March 2009
  • All new staff to receive equality awareness training within 1 year of joining.
  • April 2008-Mar 2009
  • Oct /Nov 2008
  • March 2009
  • ongoing

 

 

 

Interim Management Board

Office of the Assembly Commission

Office of the Assembly Commission and Personnel Office

 


  • Specialised/focused training
  • Specialised/focused training (see Section 8 of Scheme for types of training) for key staff (minimum of 1 in year 1)
  • ongoing

Office of the Assembly Commission

Equality Impact Assessments (EQIAs)

  • Plan for EQIAs

 

 

 

 

 

 

  • Carrying out EQIAs
  • Consult with relevant interest groups on outcome of screening exercise (including proposed priorities for EQIA)
  • Develop plan for carrying out EQIAs, taking account of consultation responses
  • Agree plan for EQIAs with Interim Management Board
  • Agree plan with Northern Ireland Assembly Commission
  • Commence implementation of EQIA process in accordance with guidelines and agreed timetable.
  • April – June 2008

 

  • July-Aug 2008
  • Sept-Oct 2008
  • October 2008

 

  • Oct/Nov 2008

 

Office of the Assembly Commission

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Communication

 

  • Publication of Equality Scheme

 

 

 

 

 

 

  • Dissemination to key stakeholders
  • Scheme to be published after approval from the Equality Commission
  • Summary of Scheme to be developed and made available
  • Scheme to be made available in accessible formats on request
  • Scheme to be published on website

 

  • Copy of Scheme to be made available to all staff
  • Copy of Scheme mailed to all those consulted on the Scheme, and to others on request
  • Press Release to the media informing them of the publication of the Equality Scheme

 

  • Mar/April 2008
  • April 2008
  • Ongoing
  • April 2008

 

  • April 2008

 

  • April 2008

 

 

  • April 2008

Office of the Assembly Commission


Access

  • Review of Access to Information and Services
  • To conduct a review within one year of the implementation of the scheme covering all aspects of access to information and services, and produce report making recommendations
  • To consult on review with key stakeholders
  • Produce action plan for acting on review recommendations
  • Implementation of action to meet performance targets.
  • April 2009

 

 

 

 

  • May 2009

 

  • July 2009

 

  • September 2009

Office of the Assembly Commission


Complaints

  • Complaints procedure
  • To respond to any complaints of non-compliance within one month of complaint being made.
  • To report on complaints made on an annual basis to the Equality Commission as part of annual report.
  • ongoing

 

 

  • annually

Office of the Assembly Commission


APPENDIX 6 – LIST OF FUNCTIONAL AREAS AND POLICY DETAILS IDENTIFIED IN 2002

All of the polices listed below were screened against the criteria listed in section 5 of the draft Scheme.

Office of the Speaker: provides an internal support function – no policies

Office of the Clerk. This Office includes the following -

Legal Services: internal support function providing legal advice to the Speaker, Assembly Committees and Assembly Secretariat - no policies.

Examiner of Statutory Rules: provides an internal support function – no policies

Internal Audit: provides an internal support function – no policies

Procurement Office: policies relating to -
Supplier evaluation and appraisal. It is intended that this policy will provide guidelines for Assembly Secretariat staff in interfacing with suppliers.
Procurement and related procedures. It is intended that this policy will establish guidelines for expenditure that is non-salary or party related.

Communication : policies on –
Internal/external Communication. It is intended that this policy will provide guidelines for Assembly Secretariat staff when interfacing with others.

Office of the Assembly Commission: policies on -

  • Cultural displays. This policy sets out the guidelines on the display of poppies and lilies in Parliament Buildings. It is also intended that this policy will include guidelines on the use of symbols and emblems to reflect the parliamentary history of Parliament Buildings.
  • Flags. This policy sets out the dates for flying the Union flag on Parliament Buildings.

Clerk Assistant’s Directorate – this Directorate provides support to the Assembly in relation to its work as a legislature and scrutinising body which is not covered by this draft Scheme. Cross-functional policies relating to this Directorate, for which the Assembly Commission is responsible, e.g. on accessibility to Committee rooms will be assessed by the Directorate with lead responsibility for the particular policy.

Office of the Official Report - this Office provides support to the Assembly in relation to its work as a legislature and scrutinising body. That work is not covered by this draft Scheme. Cross-functional policies relating to this Office, for which the Assembly Commission is responsible, e.g. on communication will be assessed by the Directorate with lead responsibility for the particular policy.

Keeper of the House Directorate: policies on –

  • Accessibility. This policy is intended to ensure that all users have equal access to all facilities within Parliament Buildings.
  • Health and safety. The purpose of this policy is to ensure that the Assembly Commission complies with all relevant health and safety legislation and Codes of Practice.
  • Emergency and crises preparedness. This policy will set out the framework for the achievement of an effective and efficient response to all (reasonable) crisis situations and emergencies from terrorist and criminal attacks and major accident/fire hazard scenarios.
  • Security policy. This policy is to ensure that adequate security measures are taken to safeguard and protect Assembly Members and their staff; Secretariat staff; contractors; visitors and Assembly assets from assessed risk.
  • Environmental best practice. This policy will set out guidelines in relation to environmental aspects relating to Parliament Buildings such as water usage; energy consumption; green purchasing etc.

Finance and Personnel Directorate: policies on –

  • Recruitment. This policy covers recruitment issues from pre-advertisement stage to appointment.
  • Terms and conditions of service. This policy is intended to ensure that the Assembly Commission’s terms and conditions of service for the Secretariat reflect the unique business needs of the Assembly.
  • Pay and grading. This policy is intended to ensure that Assembly Secretariat staff receive the appropriate pay/salary to reflect their duties and grade.
  • Harassment. This policy is intended to maintain harmonious relationships, dignified and respectful attitudes and behaviour from all members of the Assembly Secretariat towards each other.
  • Equal opportunities. This policy sets out the commitment of the Assembly Commission to promoting equality of opportunity and treatment and to preventing any unfair discrimination in its employment practices.

Research and Information Directorate: policies on –

  • Corporate ICT strategies. This policy sets out the core strategies for the exploitation of ICT within the Northern Ireland Assembly for the next three years.
  • Freedom of Information. This policy will set out the procedures for compliance with the legalisation on making information held by public authorities more openly available.
  • Information strategy. This policy sets out the Assembly Commission’s vision for exploiting information.

Appendix 7: MACRO POLICY AREAS IDENTIFIED FROM SCREENING EXERCISE IN 2002

Following the systematic screening of policies in 2002, five macro policy areas were outlined for Equality Impact Assessment, those were:

  • Policies relating to Education/information – this area includes all published information, student placement programme and public access to the Assembly;
  • Policies relating to Equality of Opportunity;
  • Policies relating to Recruitment and Selection;
  • Policies relating to Procurement; and
  • Policies relating to the Terms and Conditions for staff, which differ from those provided by the NICS, e.g. childcare policy, starting pay policy and the policy on temporary promotion.

Find Your MLA

Locate your local MLA

Find MLA

News and Media Centre

Read press releases, watch live and archived video.

Find out more

Follow the Assembly

Keep up to date with what's happening at the Assembly.

Find out more

Subscribe

Enter your email address to keep up to date

Sign up