While the Commission will work to encourage prompt action to address the priorities for action, we also encourage action by government, officials and key stakeholders to advance our full range of recommendations, which include:
More effectively engage with, and foster the active participation of, people from across the full range of equality categories The Commission continues to recommend the full and effective involvement of those from across the full range of equality categories in the design, delivery, monitoring and evaluation of strategic actions; and to build capacity within relevant sectors.
The effective inclusion of individuals from across a range of equality categories will require specific and tailored steps to be taken. This will entail identifying, including with stakeholders, the specific barriers to participation which individuals from across a range of groups may face, and taking action to help overcome them.
Departments should aim, where they currently do not, to secure representative participation in decision-making of people from across the equality categories. Departments should identify and take the actions necessary to achieve this aim, across Strategies, and the development, delivery and review of government policy and services.
Mechanisms, such as departmental champions, should be regularly reviewed to ensure their effectiveness.
Address structural barriers which can deter individuals from a range of equality categories from participating in public life
Structural barriers can include recruitment criteria and processes; the requirement for previous experience; costs of participation and the balancing of family and working life.
We recommend that government departments take action to: focus on skills and experience essential
for the role; place value on lived experience; provide associated opportunities for capacity building (e.g. training and/or board/work experience); and examine the costs associated with participation; to help overcome barriers and widen access.
The impact of remuneration upon statutory benefit entitlement may deter people with disabilities and others from pursuing a paid participative role. Participation should be fairly remunerated, with clarity around its impact on statutory benefits.
The reconciliation of family and working life represents a significant barrier. We reiterate our call for accessible, appropriate and affordable childcare. More carer friendly policy and practices are needed. (Read our gender policy priorities on childcare)
Meet the physical access and communication needs of prospective participants
Organisations have a legal duty to make reasonable adjustments for disabled people. This may require them to use appropriate rooms within a building to conduct a meeting, to change the venue itself in order to secure participation, and to give consideration to the provision of facilities within the building.
The Commission welcomes the progress of the provision of accessible transport in Belfast and Greater Belfast but recommends the Department for Infrastructure give consideration to the extension of accessible public transport, particularly in rural areas.
Organisations should consider the communication needs of prospective participants, and produce materials in appropriate languages and accessible formats, or use a variety of dissemination channels.
As public services increasingly move to ‘digital by default’ whereby information is provided and accessed online, public bodies should ensure safeguards are in place necessary for individuals from across the Section 75 categories to participate fully.
Build capacity, overcome barriers and foster a sense of belonging
We call for action to improve capacity building for under-represented groups. Capacity building opportunities (e.g. through training, board / work experience, and/or mentoring) aligned to common skills and experience criteria for public life posts should be delivered to overcome barriers and widen access.
Targeted actions to better understand and foster a ‘sense of belonging’ among under-represented groups should also be implemented to assist in overcoming perceived barriers.
Further, we call for action to engage with under-represented groups via promotion and outreach to raise awareness of the potential benefits for individuals and society, helping to overcome actual or perceived personal barriers to participation.
Challenge stereotypes and prejudice
Action is needed across society, including by government, civil society and the media, to: encourage the participation and visibility of under-represented groups in public life; promote role models; and tackle the high level of prejudicial attitudes towards individuals associated with their equality group characteristics.
There is also a need to challenge stereotypes, including gender stereotypes relating to parenting and childcare responsibilities; support the sharing of family roles/responsibilities; and remove associated barriers to parents contributing to public life.
Wider societal prejudices and hate crimes must be tackled; including harassment both inside and outside the workplace; and bullying in schools.