Audit of Inequalities
This is a systematic approach to identify inequalities, across the nine Section 75 categories (religious belief, political opinion, race, age, gender, disability, marital status, sexual orientation, people with dependants or without), which are relevant to a public authority’s functions, and will inform the development of an action plan to promote equality of opportunity and good relations.
The audit of inequalities is additional and complementary to the development of an equality scheme. It is intended to produce a more strategic picture of inequalities that a public authority may be in a position to influence, rather than examining inequalities on a policy by policy basis. It should be similar to other approaches undertaken by organisations to review and evaluate their performance, to make decisions about the way forward and to prioritise actions over time.
It is a review and evaluation of existing reliable and verifiable data, both qualitative and quantitative, for each of the Section 75 equality and good relations categories. There should be opportunities to share information between public authorities and take a sectoral, collaborative approach to make best use of resources. Download our advice on approaching an Audit of Inequalities (Word doc).
Action measures and outcomes
The promotion of equality of opportunity and good relations should be action-based in a way that is tailored to a public authority’s specific functions, duties, objectives, and policies. It may be helpful for a public authority to develop an action plan which details measures relevant to their functions, to promote equality of opportunity and good relations and address inequalities for the Section 75 categories.
Action plans should outline the desired outcomes that a public authority aims to achieve with related performance indicators and timescales. Outcomes from actions taken by a public authority may not be realised within the yearly annual progress reporting period (1 April – 31 March). The Commission’s annual progress reporting template will facilitate reporting on outcomes achieved outside of the requested reporting period of 1 April to 31 March. (See chapter 8 of the Guide for Public Authorities)
Assessment of equality implications
Public authorities are required to assess the likely impact of their policies on the promotion of equality of opportunity. The Commission recommends that effective assessment of the equality implications of a policy includes screening of all policies and consideration of undertaking an equality impact assessment.
Section 75 is important to policy formulation (new or proposed) and policy review (existing policies). It is important that public authorities use the assessment of policies for impact on equality of opportunity, including screening and equality impact assessment, as part of their policy development process, rather than as an afterthought when the policy has been established.
By enabling people likely to be affected by policies to participate directly in the development of policies and check for inequalities through appropriate consultation, the extent of impact can be more effectively assessed. Ultimately public authorities will be developing policies and services, following assessment and consultation, so that equality of opportunity and good relations can be better delivered. The results of assessments must be published.
Section 75 is underpinned by the building of relationships between those who make and deliver public policy and those affected by such policy. Consultation can help authorities to become aware of problems their policies may pose for individuals, which the organisation might not otherwise discover. The legislation requires consultation on the equality scheme itself, on the impact of policies and on matters to which the Section 75 statutory duties are likely to be relevant.
Section 75 should enable public authorities to identify the usefulness of their policies with a view to improving service provision and accessibility on a continuous basis. Public authorities will want to ensure that they are providing the best possible services within available public monies. Consultation can help to ensure that public policy meets its intended need and contributes to better service delivery and accessibility.
A key aspect of effective consultation is providing timely feedback to consultees demonstrating how their input was considered and how it affected decision making. (See chapter 7 of the Guide for Public Authorities)
Complaints and investigations
Public Authorities should facilitate people making complaints regarding the implementation of their equality scheme and ensure effective systems, protocols and procedures are in place to support them. They should also cooperate with the Commission in any subsequent investigation regarding implementation of their equality scheme.
The Equality Commission can carry out two types of investigation (under Schedule 9 of the NI Act 1998), arising from the failure of a public authority to comply with the commitments set out in its approved equality scheme. They are:
1. An investigation of a complaint by an individual who claims to have been directly affected by the failure of a public authority to comply with its approved equality scheme
2. An investigation initiated by the Commission, where it believes that a public authority may have failed to comply with its approved equality scheme.
Monitoring Section 75 information involves the processing of sensitive personal data (relating to the racial or ethnic origin of individuals, political opinions, religious beliefs etc). We have developed monitoring guidance for public authorities which provides practical assistance and advice on how to carry out monitoring for the purposes of Section 75.
To do this in a confidential manner download our Step by step guide to monitoring (pdf). Further information is available from the Office of the Information Commissioner.
Annual Progress Reports
Public authorities should report to the Equality Commission on the implementation of their equality scheme, including progress on delivery of actions they have identified to promote equality of opportunity and good relations.
The deadline for the Commission receiving progress reports is 31 August each year.
The Commission provides a template for progress reporting (word doc) to public authorities each year, to ensure comparability and allow further assessment of the effectiveness of Section 75 statutory duties.
Five year review of equality schemes
Within five years of submission of an equality scheme to the Commission public authorities must conduct a review of their equality scheme and inform the Commission on the outcome of the review. We provide guidance on these five year reviews to ensure consistency and allow further assessment of the effectiveness of the Section 75 statutory duties. Download our guidance (word doc)
We recognise, however, that many public authorities operate a three year corporate plan cycle. Equality scheme reviews may therefore take place within a shorter timescale to allow coordination with other planning cycles. This may be beneficial as evidence of equality and good relations being taken into account in core business is required to demonstrate effective implementation of Section 75 statutory duties.
Report: Acting on the evidence of public authority practices
The Equality Commission’s report 'Acting on the evidence of public authority practices
' (July 2018)
identifies a number of issues which it believes are fundamental to the effective implementation of the Section 75 duties by public authorities and presents recommendations which will help them to fulfil their statutory equality and good relations duties.