Programme for Government: our recommendations
The Equality Commission has set out its recommendations in relation to the next Programme for Government and Budget of the NI Executive. These include actions relating to the development and implementation of equality strategies, namely to:
challenge prejudicial attitudes, behaviour and hate crime, so as to ensure that workplaces, services, public spaces and communities are free from harassment and/or discrimination across the equality grounds
Commission response to PfG proposed delivery plans:
Further information is available on the Programme for Government section of our website www.equalityni.org/pfg
Prejudicial attitudes / hate crime
The Commission has highlighted the need to tackle prejudicial attitudes, behaviour and hate crime.
It is essential that steps are taken to ensure that workplaces, services, public spaces and communities are free from harassment and/or discrimination across the equality grounds.
This includes action to address sectarianism and racism within the workplace; tackle the significant attitudinal barriers to employment for people with disabilities; to challenge negative attitudes towards Irish Travellers, Eastern European migrant workers and other minority ethnic individuals, as well as lesbian, gay and bisexual people and trans individuals.
Further, it includes action aimed at tackling hate crime experienced by Section 75 equality groups, including sectarian, racist, homophobic, transphobic, and disability hate crime. It also involves challenging gender stereotypes and gender based violence.
A move to an education system of a shared curriculum in shared classes
We recommend a move to an education system of a shared curriculum in shared classes. Within the current education system societal mixing and cohesion is limited by separation in education.
We believe that a shared education system will enable learners from different cultures and communities to value the range of diverse cultures and experience a shared society.
Addressing prejudicial attitudes through the curriculum
We recommend addressing prejudicial attitudes through the curriculum in an age appropriate way is key to driving change. Leadership and commitment from Principals and Boards of Governors is needed to tackle all forms of bullying, including prejudice-based bullying, in schools.
Consideration should be given to the regulation of flying flags by local councils
We are of the opinion that there are legitimate purposes for flying the Union Flag but believe that corporate governance arrangements should be extended to ensure that excessive display of flags is curtailed.
The display of flags and emblems should be balanced against individual rights and sharing public spaces. Displays of flags and emblems can increase community tensions and discourage communities from sharing public spaces.
Create greater contact and sharing amongst the community by reducing segregation in our housing sector
Housing strategies should meet housing need and pay due regard to the need to promote equality of opportunity and have regard to the desirability of promoting good relations.
We recognise the value of shared housing and believe that segregated housing in Northern Ireland is not the way forward for our society.
Remove barriers to equality of opportunity and fair participation in employment where they remain
Poor quality services to support people back to and into employment, educational disadvantage, attitudinal discrimination, inflexible working arrangements and the absence of childcare provision is some of the significant barriers people face.
Consideration of barriers to the labour market should focus on priorities such as childcare provision and the potential of a ‘living wage’ to mitigate against in-work poverty.
Together Building a United Community strategy
May 2013, the Northern Ireland Executive published a strategy 'Together Building a United Community' which proposes to amend the remit, roles and responsibilities of the Equality Commission into an Equality and Good Relations Commission.
It also proposes to develop an augmented impact assessment that assesses the extent to which policies and other interventions contribute to meeting the objectives of this overarching Strategy.
The Commission welcomed the commitment in the Strategy to a framework for delivering good relations across a wide range of grounds. Chief Commissioner Michael Wardlow said:
“We fully support the ambition that seeks to address the issues of division across housing, education and on and between our streets. We also welcome the ambition to create a sense of a united community, while cautioning that Northern Ireland is not about blending just two communities into one – our modern society is a vibrant and diverse collection of communities and identities each of which should be recognised and valued.”
The law is quite clear that equality and good relations must be central in all decision making on public policy. It is of paramount importance that the Strategy is subject to comprehensive equality impact assessment both to reflect the intent of the legislation and to avail of the contribution to decision-making that effective impact assessment provides.
Actions to address racist prejudice
We have called for a racial equality strategy and policy interventions
in nine key areas that includes tackling racist attitudes, racist hate crime and institutional racism
. The Commission has called for specific measures to address these issues that includes:
OFMDFM to co-ordinate departmental action aimed at identifying and addressing any institutional racism, including through the use of Section 75 processes as part of the revised Racial Equality Strategy.
The reduction and elimination of racial violence to be prioritised through a range of actions including; addressing issues of under reporting; reducing the risk of low level hate crime escalating through early intervention; improving the operational response to hate crime; providing support for victims of racist hate crime and publishing data which would allow for end-to-end tracking of hate crime cases.
The criminal justice agencies to improve the accessibility of reporting for those victims who have English as an additional language and take appropriate steps to increase minority ethnic representation among police and criminal justice staff.