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Want to stay on the right side of the law? We support businesses and public authorities and help them to promote good practice.

Review and positive action


What you need to know


Disability Action Plans - Review of information and consideration of positive action

A Disability Action Plan must describe the public authority’s arrangements for analysing and considering the information collected through monitoring and consultation and for paying due regard as to whether to take positive action i.e. action to promote participation by disabled persons in public life and for encouraging positive attitudes towards them.

Public authorities may find it helpful to use similar arrangements to those used in their Section 75 equality schemes i.e. the processes of “screening” or “impact assessment”. The arrangements need not be elaborate and could entail simply prompting decision-makers to ask themselves key questions at appropriate times; i.e.

(a) does a particular policy proposal, or other practices, have any negative impacts on the participation of disabled persons in public life, or on attitudes towards them, and

(b) are there are any opportunities to encourage greater participation or to promote better attitudes?

A public authority may include these questions on its Section 75 “screening” template to ensure that engagement with the Section 49A duty occurs simultaneously with engagement with the Section 75 duty; which is often an appropriate time to do so.

The key to reviewing information and considering positive action is to have:

- good monitoring data
- a reliable target or benchmark against which to assess current levels of participation and attitudes and to measure the success of any positive action that is being taken
- a commitment to doing them on a regular periodic basis; and
- a determination to respond to the findings by considering what positive action it might be appropriate to take.

In describing your arrangements in your plan, we recommend that you outline:

  • Who is responsible for ensuring that the arrangements are established or, where they are already stablished, maintained and implemented thereafter?
  • When will the arrangements be established, if they are not already in place?
  • What are the arrangements and when will they be carried out; e.g. during normal Section 75 “screening” exercises and/or as separate review exercises carried-out every 3 or 5 years, or so?

Example of emerging good practice:

The Business Services Organisation (BSO)

Matthew McDermottBSO provides equality advice and support to the Office of Research Ethics Committees Northern Ireland (ORECNI). Matthew McDermott, Equality Manager from BSO explains the role of positive action measures and a monitoring system in developing a strategy to address the underrepresentation of disabled people who sit on ethics committees:

  • A monitoring exercise conducted in 2009 indicated that there were no members of the ethics committees that self-identified as having a disability. This information strengthened ORECNI’s commitment to introduce an Action Plan designed to encourage greater participation by disabled people on these ethics committees
  • The Plan included a commitment for ORECNI to actively encourage applications for membership from people with disabilities by informing representative groups of advertisements for ethics committee posts, and by sharing information on the work of these committees with these groups.
  • The monitoring system, which was quantitative in nature, played an important part in identifying the problem of too few disabled people on ethics committees but was also essential in assessing the effectiveness of the action plan measures
  • Following an equality monitoring exercise, an analysis of the data demonstrated that the positive action measures taken had been successful as there has been a 5% increase in members of ethics committees with a self-declared disability
  • Dr Siobhan McGrath, head of ORECNI commented, ‘I am pleased that this targeted approach has increased the representation of persons with a disability as members on the health and social care research ethics committees. It is important that participants in medical and social care research reflect the general population, including people with a disability.
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