Good Relations Action Plan Consultation

Results of the Assembly Commission Consultation on the Good Relations Action Plan 2010-2011

'This Consultation has now Closed'

Dear Consultee

Northern Ireland Assembly Commission - Good Relations Action Plan

The Northern Ireland Assembly Commission (the Commission) has approved a Good Relations Action Plan for the period from 2010 - 2011 and now wishes to consult with interested organisations and/or individuals. A copy of the Action Plan is attached at Appendix 1 and details of the consultation process are outlined below.

The closing date for comments on this consultation is Friday 4 June 2010.

It is the intention of the Commission to adopt an inclusive and transparent approach to this consultation and it has provided a number of options to facilitate your involvement in the process. The options proposed are:

  1. The Commission invites written representations on the content of the Good Relations Action Plan.
    Please send your comments to:

    Maria Bannon
    Equality Manager
    Northern Ireland Assembly Commission Support and Compliance Unit
    Room 152
    Parliament Buildings
    Ballymiscaw
    Stormont
    Belfast
    BT4 3XX
    or submit electronically to equality@niassembly.gov.uk
  2. The Equality Manager will facilitate consultation meetings, on behalf of the Commission, to discuss this document and to obtain further feedback from consultees, as required.
  3. The Equality Manager will also facilitate round table events, on behalf of the Commission, bringing together similar representative organisations and/or individuals on request.

If you wish to take part in a round table event, or meet with the Equality Manager, Maria Bannon, to discuss the Good Relations Action Plan further, please contact us by either:

Telephone: 02890 418377
Text Phone: 02890 521209
Email: equality@niassembly.gov.uk

There may be a number of people in your organisation who would be interested in this consultation so we would be grateful if you could ensure that they are made aware of this consultation process.

The Commission will publish a summary of responses, following the completion of the consultation process. If you would prefer your response to be treated as confidential, please let us know, stating your reasons clearly. Any automatic confidentiality disclaimer generated by your IT system will be taken to apply only to information in your response for which confidentiality has been specifically requested.

If we are asked to disclose responses under Freedom of Information legislation, we will take any requests for confidentiality into account. However, confidentiality cannot be guaranteed.

We will handle appropriately any personal data you provide in accordance with the Data Protection Act 1998. For further information about confidentiality of responses, please contact the Information Commissioner's Office or see website at: www.informationcommissioner.gov.uk

These documents are available in hard copy and in alternative formats such as large print, Braille, audio or in other languages. They can be requested by contacting us using any of the methods outlined above.

We look forward to hearing from you.

Yours faithfully

MARIA BANNON
EQUALITY MANAGER
NI ASSEMBLY COMMISSION

GOOD RELATIONS
CONSULTATION DOCUMENT

1. INTRODUCTION

The promotion of Good Relations is a statutory duty placed upon all public authorities in Northern Ireland. Section 75 (2) of the Northern Ireland Act 1998 requires the Assembly Commission 1 (the Commission) to “…have regard to the desirability of promoting good relations between persons of different religious belief, political opinion or racial group.” 2

The Commission’s approach to the promotion of good relations is underpinned by its commitment to equality of opportunity.

This Good Relations Action Plan sets out a framework for responding to challenges and improving service delivery over the next year. Through this the Commission’s aim is to implement a programme of work which will inform the development of a Good Relations Strategy.

2. THE ASSEMBLY COMMISSION AND GOOD RELATIONS

In March 2005, the Office of the First Minister and Deputy First Minister (OFMDFM) published ‘A Shared Future’: The policy and strategic framework for good relations in Northern Ireland’. The overall aim of this policy is:

“The establishment over time of a normal, civic society, in which all individuals are considered equals, where differences are resolved through dialogue in the public sphere, and where all people are treated impartially. A society where there is equity, respect for diversity and a recognition of our interdependence.” 3 The Commission support this aim and wish, through this Plan, to do its part in supporting the achievement of a shared future for the benefit of all the internal and external users of the Northern Ireland Assembly.

In order to take forward this area of work the Assembly Commission approved a Good Relations Action Plan for consultation at its meeting of 21 January 2010. This plan also contributes to the corporate objective ‘to promote good relations’ as stated in the Commission’s 2008-2011 (Revised 2009) Secretariat Corporate Plan. 4

3. THE GOOD RELATIONS VISION FOR THE ASSEMBLY COMMISSION

The Commission is committed through its Equality Scheme to the principle of equality of opportunity and good relations. In this context the Commission will aim to ensure that the entire community can enjoy full and fair access to, and participate in, the operations of the Northern Ireland Assembly. Additionally, the adoption of this action plan will ultimately support the Commission’s vision of:

“An Assembly that strengthens democracy and engages the people (of Northern Ireland) in creating a better future for all”. 5

4. COMMITMENT

To assist in achieving its vision the Commission, at its meeting of 10 December 2009, reiterated and formalised its commitment to Good Relations, they stated:

“The Northern Ireland Assembly Commission is committed to the promotion of good relations between persons of differing religious belief, political opinion or racial group and is committed to challenging sectarianism and racism.”

The Good Relations Plan is also inextricably linked to the value-based concepts of equality, diversity and interdependence and to the objectives and priorities of A Shared Future and the Racial Equality Strategy. 6

Through this the Commission, when delivering its services and policies, will integrate these values into daily practice.

Equity is about ensuring that all sections of society have equal opportunities to participate in economic, political and social life through redressing inequalities arising independently from people’s choices.

Diversity is about acknowledging how our differences as individual human beings and as members of groups can improve the quality of our lives.

Interdependence is about recognizing that we are shaped by our relationships, and that our potential as human beings and as a society is dependent on the quality of our interactions with one another. 7

The Commission also demonstrates its commitment to Good Relations in line with public statements contained in its Corporate and Business Plans, leadership at Management level and devolving responsibility throughout the organisation by encouraging each Directorate and related business area to promote equality and good relations as part of their routine work. The action plan at Appendix 1 has captured good relations devolvement at Directorate level.

5. PRINCIPLES

In delivering good relations the Commission will also:

5.1 Be impartial.
5.2 Respect the backgrounds and cultures of others.
5.3 Learn from others’ experiences.
5.4 Support those with whom we come into contact with in an open and tolerant manner.
5.5 Accept that we might not always share the same views as others but we are comfortable with that acceptance.
5.6 Help to build trust and understanding within and outside the organisation.

6. CURRENT POSITION/ACTION PLAN

The Commission has approved the current Good Relations Action Plan for consultation and welcomes your views and comments. It has broken the plan into Six Shared Aims. These are:

• Promotion of Good Relations: The Commission will promote equality of opportunity and good relations in all aspects of its work by ensuring that all its services are delivered impartially and effectively.

• Equal protection: The Commission will provide equal protection to its staff and service-users by tackling any incident of racial harassment or sectarianism. The recent publication of our “Dignity at Work” policy outlines how the Commission proposes to create and sustain an environment where everyone is treated with respect and dignity. Equity, Diversity and Interdependence within the workforce will be recognised with the aim of making the most of everyone’s potential.

• Equality of service provision: The Commission will ensure equality of opportunity for all people in accessing and benefiting from its services and facilities. It will shape its policies, practices and work with other organisations, individuals and groups to enable trust and good relations to grow.

• Participation: The Commission, through its Engagement Strategy, and other relevant documents, will develop partnerships with public bodies, agencies, schools and others to foster a sense of belonging to an integrated and mutually supportive society in which diversity is valued and welcomed. Parliament Buildings hosts a large number of events and visitors each year and has a significant opportunity to play a leading role in the encouragement of dialogue, shared learning and mutual respect for different faiths and cultural backgrounds.

• Dialogue: The Commission will encourage dialogue, mutual understanding and shared learning on issues related to good relations to ensure tolerance and understanding are promoted and appropriate initiatives/activities which promote equality of opportunity are fostered.

• Capacity Building: The Commission will aim to further build capacity internally and externally, with appropriate groups, to ensure suitable partnerships can be developed to address the Commission’s commitment to Section 75(1) and (2).

7. ANNUAL REVIEW

The Good Relations Action Plan will be reviewed six-monthly by the Assembly Commission and the Secretariat Management Group. A Good Relations Action Plan will be devised for each subsequent year. The Equality Unit will lead the Commission on matters relating to its commitment to promoting and improving good relations both among staff and with external stakeholders. It is also anticipated that the Good Relations Action Plan will be subject to normal internal audit scrutiny.

8. ACTION PLAN

The Good Relations Action Plan for 2010-2011 is shown at Appendix 1.

Appendix 1

GOOD RELATIONS ACTION PLAN 2010-2011

Aim 1: Promotion of Good Relations

The Commission will promote equality of opportunity and good relations in all aspects of its work by ensuring that all its services are delivered impartially and effectively.

Action

Directorate

Timescale 8

Anticipated Outcome

1.1 Conduct an internal good relations audit with staff and members

Clerk/Director General

April 2010

  • Identification of all issues to be addressed
  • Provision of a framework in keeping with the NIAC structures for the implementation and mainstreaming of good relations
1.2 Establish a forum to address issues arising from internal audit

Cross-directorate

June 2010
  • Co-ordination and implementation of audit outcomes into updated good relations action plan
1.3 Develop a Language Policy Cross-directorate March 2010
  • Development of a clear and concise policy with measureable standards
1.4 Develop a Good Relations Policy Cross-directorate June 2010
  • Development of a clear and concise policy with measureable standards
1.5 Provide advice and guidance to the NI Assembly Commission, and to staff, on how to incorporate equality and good relations into directorate business plans Clerk/Director General Ongoing
  • Promotion of good relations into secretariat Directorates
1.6 Revision of mandatory staff training to include the promotion of good relations as part of the induction and review processes Resources June 2010
  • Development of a revised staff training programme to promote good relations and provide for the tackling of various forms of discrimination
  • Appropriate policies reviewed to ensure good relations is mainstreamed
1.7 Continue to utilise applicable Code(s) and Guidance from the Equality Commission NI as it relates to the recruitment of staff Resources Ongoing
  • Commission policies continue to reflect best practice in recruitment and continue to ensure equality of opportunity for all potential job candidates
Aim 2: Equal Protection

The Commission will provide equal protection to its staff and service-users by tackling any incident of racial harassment or sectarianism. The recent publication of our “Dignity at Work” policy outlines how the Commission proposes to create and sustain an environment where everyone is treated with respect and dignity. Equity, Diversity and Interdependence 9 within the workforce will be recognised with the aim of making the most of everyone’s potential.

Action

Directorate

Timescale

Anticipated Outcome

2.1 Develop a Section 75 complaints policy

Clerk/DG/Resources

June 2010

  • Development of a clear and concise policy with measureable standards
2.2 Establish a system to monitor complaints against Section 75 categories to ensure preventative action can be taken Clerk/DG/Resources July 2010
  • Development of clear and measurable standards

2.3 Secretariat Management will, through

its Induction Training Plan, promote positive attitudes, behaviour and actions in all aspects of its business

Resources Ongoing
  • Improved understanding across secretariat employees
2.4 Provide legal advice to the NI Assembly Commission, and to staff, in relation to obligations under section 75 (2) of the Northern Ireland Act 1998 Clerk/Director General Ongoing
  • Compliance with section 75 (2) of the Northern Ireland Act 1998
Aim 3: Equality of Service Provision

The Commission will ensure equality of opportunity for all people in accessing and benefiting from its services and facilities. It will shape its policies, practices and work with other organisations, individuals and groups to enable trust and good relations to grow.

Action

Directorate

Timescale

Anticipated Outcome

3.1 Develop approaches to target unrepresented groups to ensure equal access to services and employment

Cross-directorate

Ongoing

  • Mainstreamed into service provision
3.2 Develop opportunities for shared learning and space e.g. exhibitions/displays/education/youth assembly Cross-directorate August 2010
  • Opportunities to promote good relations as part of public engagement
3.3 Explore the scope to review and develop the approach to data collection, assessment and monitoring of the good relations duty across the NIAC Resources June 2010
  • A structured and common approach to data collection, assessment and monitoring developed
  • A central data collection and monitoring framework implemented
3.4 Identify, through an external good relations audit, and consultation with relevant groups if barriers exist, or have been encountered, in accessing services Clerk/Director General August 2010
  • Approaches identified to actively remove or reduce barriers
3.5 To review employee relations policies and procedures to ensure fair and consistent application Resources Ongoing
  • Appropriate policies reviewed to ensure good relations is mainstreamed
3.6 To continue implementation of the NIAC equality scheme to ensure employees understand their obligations concerning equality and good relations Clerk/Director General Ongoing
  • Compliance with Section 75 of NI Act, 1998
3.7 Public display of Speaker’s gifts Speakers Office August 2010
  • Display of Speaker’s gifts within public areas in Parliament Buildings
Aim 4: Participation

The Commission, through its Engagement Strategy, will develop partnerships with public bodies, agencies, schools and others to foster a sense of belonging to an integrated and mutually supportive society in which diversity is valued and welcomed. Parliament Buildings hosts a large number of events and visitors each year and has a significant opportunity to play a leading role in the encouragement of dialogue, shared learning and mutual respect for different faiths and cultural backgrounds.

Action- Engagement Directorate

Directorate / Business Area

Timescale

Anticipated Outcome

Listening

4.1 Consult stakeholders on their requirements by having feedback processes in place for all Engagement activities; conducting a Members Survey; and a programme of constituency visits

 

Director’s Office

 

December 2010

  • We will have listened to the full range of responses, views and expectations of our stakeholders and this will have informed our decisions and helped us to build the promotion of good relations into the delivery of our services
4.2 Use ‘new social media’ to engage with the people of NI and hear their views on the Assembly and political issues Communications April 2011
  • We will have listened to the people of NI and provided different groups with a platform for greater democratic understanding and the opportunity to develop mutual positions in a ‘shared (cyber) space
Thinking

4.3 Consider opportunities for the Assembly Bursary Programme to assist in the development of Assembly policies

 

Director’s Office

 

September 2010

 

  • The in-house resource of university students will have been used in a way which can provide closer stakeholder input to shape and inform Assembly policies and the delivery of our services
4.4 Consider a subsidised inward travel scheme Education April 2011
  • If a policy is presented, the promotion of Good Relations will have been considered and factored in as a qualifying / high priority criterion
4.5 A teacher’s 2 day awareness conference in line with the citizenship educational programme Education November 2010
  • This conference will have provided a forum for teachers from all sectors to work together on educational activities
4.6 Development of the Commission’s Events policy Events Office September 2010
  • The policy will have built the promotion of good relations into the delivery of our services and factored this as a qualifying / high priority criterion
4.7 Voluntary and community sector engagement policy External Liaison Unit September 2010
  • The policy will have built the promotion of good relations into the delivery of our services and factored this as a qualifying / high priority criterion
Doing

4.8 The Assembly delivers its education programme in a format which provides for schools from different backgrounds to learn together

 

Education

 

Ongoing

 

  • Schools from different backgrounds will have had the opportunity to learn together and about each other
4.9 Provide more space within Parliament Buildings to provide a wider range of programmes for more schools and for more schoolchildren, as well as teachers and adult learners Education Ongoing
  • The Assembly will have increased its capacity to deliver its education programme in a format which provides for schools from different backgrounds to learn together
4.10 Implement a Youth Assembly. Education

Youth Panel by March 2010 Youth Assembly by 2011

  • The Assembly will have provided the opportunity for young people from diverse backgrounds to engage in dialogue and work together. This will have helped the Assembly to achieve its corporate aim of strengthening democracy through the engagement of the next generation of voters

4.11 Reviewing and updating resources:

  • Website
  • Hard copy
  • DVD
Education Early 2011
  • The Assembly will have produced a range of educational material which is aimed at explaining the work of the Assembly and highlights ways that everyone can actively engage with democracy.
4.12 Develop an Assembly Exhibition External Liaison Unit December 2010
  • People from different backgrounds will have had the opportunity to learn together and about different political perspectives
4.13 Hold Assembly Road Shows External Liaison Unit Ongoing
  • People from different backgrounds and sectors will have had the opportunity to discuss political issues
4.14 Participate in the Balmoral Show External Liaison Unit May 2010
  • People from different rural backgrounds and the agricultural sector will have had the opportunity to discuss political issues
4.15 Northern Ireland Assembly & Business Trust (NIABT) External Liaison Unit Ongoing
  • People from different backgrounds in the business sector will have had the opportunity to learn together and share opinion on issues of mutual interest. The promotion of Good Relations will have been considered and factored in as a qualifying / high priority criterion for membership
4.16 Focus groups with lobby and voluntary groups to inform committee business Research Service Ongoing
  • We will have provided different groups with opportunities to work together to inform Committee decisions/ deliberations

 

Aim 4 - Participation
Action – Facilities Directorate

Directorate

Timescale

Anticipated Outcome

4.17 Develop a gift shop policy for the sale of goods under the auspice of ‘crafters’

Facilities

May 2010

  • Development of a clear and concise policy with measureable standards
4.18 Review access policy regarding the main entrance to Parliament Buildings Facilities March 2010
  • Ensuring ongoing compliance with DDA legislation. Draft protocol for access arrangements for Parliament Buildings. Offer training for Members with regard to access arrangements
4.19 Review welcome and signage displays to reflect an increasingly diverse population and range of visitors Facilities/Engagement March 2010
  • ‘Welcome’ sign provided at reception area in a number of languages, including Irish, Ulster-Scots and other languages e.g. Filipino/Polish etc to reflect multi-cultural composition of visiting public. This could be displayed on the existing Assembly electronic information screen in the great hall.

 

Aim 4 - Participation
Action –Clerking and Reporting Directorate

Directorate

Timescale

Anticipated Outcome

4.20 Provision of simultaneous interpreting service from Irish and Ulster Scots to English to the Speaker and Clerks at Table

Office of the Official Report

At every sitting of the Assembly.

  • Accurate and timely provision of service as and when required
4.21 Provision of a parliamentary reporting service in Irish and Ulster Scots Office of the Official Report As and when Irish/Ulster Scots is used
  • Accurate and timely provision of service as and when required and in line with Hansard service standards
4.22 Miscellaneous translation and editorial services in respect of Irish Office of the Official Report As and when required
  • Accurate and timely provision of service as and when required
4.23 Advertisement of Committee inquiries and the Committee stage of Bills in each of the main daily newspapers offering opportunities to all sections of the community to submit evidence Central Committee Ongoing
  • Opportunity provided to all sections of the community to contribute to policy development and legislative scrutiny processes
4.24 Guidance for witnesses attending committee meetings reviewed to take account of the needs of people with a disability and language barriers Central Committee Ongoing
  • Improved opportunities for people with a disability to contribute to policy development and legislative scrutiny processes
4.25 Plans in place to encourage committees to actively engage with the community, including by meeting regularly outside Parliament Buildings Central Committee Ongoing
  • Improved opportunities for all sections of the community to contribute to policy development and legislative scrutiny processes

 

Aim 4 - Participation
Action –Resources Directorate

Directorate

Timescale

Anticipated Outcome

4.26 Continued implementation of fully compliant procurement policies and practices

Procurement Office

 

Procurement Office

30 June 2010

 

Ongoing

  • Installation of Assembly access to the Sourcing NI portal (giving greater access to procurement opportunities for SMEs)
  • Commission policies continue to reflect best practice in public procurement and, in doing so, provides opportunities for economic and social well-being for the community

 

Aim 4 - Participation
Action –Director General’s Office

Directorate

Timescale

Anticipated Outcome

4.27 Identify external groups to participate in Speaker’s events within Parliament Buildings

Speaker’s Office

Ongoing

  • Participation and inclusion of external groups in identified events held at Parliament Buildings

 

Aim 5: Dialogue

The Commission will encourage dialogue ,mutual understanding and shared learning on issues related to good relations to ensure tolerance and understanding are promoted and appropriate initiatives/activities which promote equality of opportunity are fostered

Action

Directorate

Timescale

Anticipated Outcome

5.1 Actively encourage internal and external dialogue to promote equality of opportunity and good relations

Cross Directorate

Ongoing

  • Facilitated dialogue on key good relations issues relevant to the Commission
5.2 Organise a good relations conference with external stakeholders to establish opportunities for learning and actions for the removal or minimising of barriers Clerk/Director General August 2010
  • Qualitative participant feedback is included in the development of a Good Relations Strategy in 2011 and updated Good Relations Action Plan
5.3 Establish a cross party good relations panel Clerk/Director General August 2010
  • Facilitated dialogue on key good relations issues relevant to the Commission e.g. the display of artefacts and memorabilia within public areas of Parliament Buildings
Aim 6: Capacity Building

The Commission will aim to further build capacity internally and externally, with appropriate groups, to ensure suitable partnerships can be developed to address the Commission’s commitment to Section 75(1) and (2)

Action

Directorate

Timescale

Anticipated Outcome

6.1 Work with the community and voluntary sector in order to inform the NIAC on issues to improve the delivery of services

6.2 Identify best practice from other sources and adopt practice following consultation with Section 75 groups and internal stakeholders

Cross Directorate

Clerk/Director General

Ongoing

Ongoing

  • Increased awareness of services offered by Commission and applicable suggested initiatives implemented
  • Best practice implemented and communicated

1. The NI Assembly Commission is the corporate body of the NI Assembly. It is responsible for putting in place and maintaining the necessary corporate infrastructure to support the NI Assembly.

2. Northern Ireland Act 1998. London, The Stationery Office Limited, 1998.

3. A Shared Future: Policy and Framework for Good Relations in Northern Ireland, Office of the First and Deputy First Minister, March 2005, p.7

4. The Northern Ireland Assembly Secretariat Corporate Plan 2008-2011 (Revised 2009), p.14

5. The Northern Ireland Assembly Secretariat Corporate Plan 2008-2011 (Revised 2009), p.7

6. A Racial Equality Strategy for Northern Ireland 2005-2010, Office of the First and Deputy First Minister

7. The Equity, Diversity and Interdependence Framework: a Framework for Organisational Learning and Change, 2002, Future Ways Programme, University of Ulster and International Fund for Ireland Community Bridges Programme

8. Timescales refer to commencement dates

  • 9 Equity is about ensuring that all sections of society have equal opportunities to participate in economic, political and social life through redressing inequalities arising independently from people’s choices.
  • Diversity is about acknowledging how our differences as individual human beings and as members of groups can improve the quality of our lives.
  • Interdependence is about recognizing that we are shaped by our relationships, and that our potential as human beings and as a society is dependent on the quality of our interactions with one another.

The Equity, Diversity and Interdependence Framework: a Framework for Organisational Learning and Change, 2002, Future Ways Programme, University of Ulster and International Fund for Ireland Community Bridges Programme

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