Northern Ireland Budget 2023-24
The Secretary of State for Northern Ireland announced the 2023-24 Budget for Northern Ireland on 27 April 2023. It provides £14.2 billion to be spent by the Northern Ireland Executive meaning significant reductions across all Departmental budgets.
We are concerned that the decisions being taken now will have a detrimental impact on equality of opportunity in Northern Ireland and significantly set back progress made, not only now, but for years to come.
We recommend that decision-makers and officials consider the potential for cumulative adverse impacts which may arise from the combination of proposed Departmental Budget allocations for 2023-24
Departments should seek to identify alternative proposals, within currently available funds, to mitigate any differential adverse equality impacts on specific equality groups.
Action is needed to mitigate equality impacts arising from proposed Departmental budget allocations
- The Equality Commission has substantial concerns that 2023-24 Departmental Budget proposals for Northern Ireland will combine to lead to new or further exacerbated inequalities for protected equality groups.
- It is essential that budget allocations, even in difficult financial periods, serve to advance equality of opportunity for people from across the full range of equality categories, and do not lead to new or exacerbated inequalities.
- While groups across all equality grounds will likely be adversely impacted by the Budget proposals, it appears from the information presented by Departments that when considered collectively, young people, older people, people with a disability, and women will be more likely to experience multiple adverse impacts across a range of budget decisions, and may be at more risk of substantive cumulative disadvantage than others.
- There is a need for the Northern Ireland Civil Service collectively, and each originating Department, to consider the equality impacts of budget allocations and proposals in their full context. This should take into account the potential combined adverse impacts of proposals from across the range of Departments. Proposals should not, individually and in combination, lead to new or exacerbated inequalities for protected equality groups.
We would welcome your engagement with colleagues, officials, and elected representatives to secure implementation of our recommendations.
Section 75 Advice
Whilst recognising the unprecedented challenges faced across Departments in the absence of a functioning Executive, we have reiterated our advice that when difficult decisions around reducing or cutting public services are being considered, they still need to comply with the Section 75 duties and their impact on equality and good relations.
The Commission has also worked at pace to respond to Departmental consultations on their equality impact assessments of their proposed budget allocations for 2023-24. We have shared our responses widely, including on our website and via social media. We have set out a range of views regarding how the equality impact assessments could be improved, and on the importance of mitigation and ongoing monitoring and review.
If you would like to know more about this area of our work, please contact 028 90 500 600 and ask to speak to someone in our Section 75 advice team.