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How is our work influencing life in Northern Ireland and delivering equality? Learn more about our policy, legal and research work.

Programme for Government


What you need to know

Commission Responses


Priorities for the Programme for Government (PfG)

In addition to recommendations across a number of areas of public policy, we called on the Executive to ensure that:
  • there is a clear commitment in the PfG, underpinned by the inclusion of robust, outcome focused action measures, to identifying, addressing and monitoring the key inequalities experienced by the Section 75 equality groups, as well as to promoting good relations;
  • a focus on addressing key inequalities includes identifying and mitigating any negative equality impacts, now and in the future, arising from the COVID-19 pandemic;
  • the PfG makes it explicit that promoting equality of opportunity and good relations are cross-cutting themes across all Government strategies, policy development and actions;
  • leadership is demonstrated in promoting positive and challenging negative social attitudes;
  • all relevant PfG measures are not only tracked in aggregate but also for the impact on individuals from each of the Section 75 grounds;
  • there is a clear commitment in the PfG, and in associated action plans, to stakeholder involvement from across the equality categories – not only in co-design but in the rolling monitoring and review of impacts. 

Download the Equality Commission's Programme for Government Priorities (pdf, June 2022)

We have also made key recommendations to advance equality across a range of areas of public policy:

Social attitudes

We recommend actions 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.


We recommend actions to :
  • tackle prejudice-based bullying;
  • ​address inequalities in attainment and access, with a particular focus on those experienced by Traveller, Roma and Newcomer children;
  • ensure progress on a number of our recommendations ‘of benefit to all children’. In particular, to advance childcare and early-years provision to meet the diverse needs of all children; to drive attainment via collaborative approaches involving family and the wider community; and to put in place a system for learning from successful interventions


We recommend actions to:
  • support people with disabilities to access and remain in the workplace
  • support women’s economic participation, including through access to appropriate, accessible and affordable childcare
  • address the exploitation and forced labour of migrant workers and the concentration of some minority ethnic workers in low paid employment
  • ensure the provision of training and programmes that are accessible and inclusive for all to get into or stay in work.

Access to social protection

We recommend actions to:


  • protect the most vulnerable from the adverse impact of welfare reform, particularly mindful of the impact on people with disabilities, women and minority ethnic communities (including asylum seekers and refugees);
  • give effect to the recommendations of the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (UNCRPD) Inquiry Report into the impact of welfare reform (2016), and the 2017 UNCRPD Concluding Observations as they relate to welfare reform;
  • identify and commit to specific measures which will mitigate adverse impacts of welfare reform, or any alternate policies which might better achieve the promotion of equality of opportunity.

Housing, accommodation & communities

We recommend actions to:
  • advance sharing in housing while ensuring objectively assessed need is met;
  • address the longer social housing waiting list for Catholic households;
  • improve the provision of disability related accommodation;
  • tackle the under-reporting of hate incidents and crimes and increase outcome rates.

Health & social care and well being

We recommend actions to:
  • identify and remove barriers to health, social care and well-being experienced by particular Section 75 equality groups, including older people; lesbian, gay, bisexual (LGB) people; trans people; Irish Travellers and other minority ethnic communities; and people with disabilities;
  • ensure investment in health care to address the specific needs of equality groups, including the health care needs of people with disabilities; and young people’s mental health needs

Participation in public life and decision making

We recommend actions to:
  • address identified gaps in equality data across a number of areas of public policy; and ensure  that data is sufficiently disaggregated to allow for meaningful equality analysis, to better inform public policy development;
  • increase diversity in government public appointments by taking actions to increase the participation of those with disabilities; and implementing its ‘Strategic Approach to Public Appointments Policy and Board Effectiveness in NI’ policy and action plan to advance participation more generally;
  • increase diversity in political representation by advancing the participation of women, and individuals from minority ethnic groups, in political life.

Reform of equality law

We recommend actions to:
  • reform and strengthen equality law across a number of equality grounds, including age (as regards the provision of goods, facilities and services), race, disability, sex, fair employment, and sexual orientation
  • reform wider areas of the law that impact on Section 75 equality groups

EU-UK Withdrawal

We recommend action to:
  • commit to act in accordance with the UK Government’s obligations under Article 2 of the EU-UK Withdrawal Agreement: Protocol on Ireland / Northern Ireland, including the commitment to keep pace with any future EU changes to ‘Annex 1’ Directives;
  • commit to ensure that equality laws keep pace, not only with ‘Annex 1’ EU equality laws (as required under Article 2 of the Protocol), but with all future EU laws that strengthen equality rights;
  • commit to address, and mitigate, the potential impact of any loss of EU funding on equality groups, as well as the impact on the voluntary and community sector

See how the Equality Commission will work in protecting your post Brexit equality rights

Address gaps in equality data

We recommend actions to:
  • collect comprehensive equality data to identify equality impacts and shape targeted actions to advance equality;
  • address key gaps in equality data, including on the grounds of gender identity, sexual orientation, and race;
  • rectify the lack of data disaggregation in relation to ethnicity, disability and gender

Develop and implement equality strategies

We recommend actions to:
  • ensure that effective equality and good relations strategies and action plans are implemented and updated across the full range of anti-discrimination grounds

Compliance with international conventions

We recommend actions to:
  • address key shortfalls in Northern Ireland so as to ensure compliance with obligations in international human rights conventions, including the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (UNCRPD)*.

* As well as obligations in other International Conventions, such as the UN Convention on the Elimination of all forms of Racial Discrimination (UNCERD), the UN Convention for the Elimination of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW), the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child (UNCRC) and the Framework Convention for the Protection of National Minorities (FCNM).

Budget proposals: Actions to meet equality/good relations requirements

Key points:
  • In the preparation of budget proposals, Departments and other public authorities should ensure that they are fulfilling their statutory equality and good relations duties.
  • The Commission has set out in guidance how Section 75 duties and equality scheme commitments apply to the budget processes*. Equality scheme arrangements and tools - i.e. screening and equality impact assessment (EQIA) - provide a means for Departments and other public authorities to assess the likely impacts of the budget proposals.

* ECNI (2015) Section 75 and Budgets: a short guide for public authoritie
  Download our Budget PfG priorities and recommendations (pdf, 416kb)

For further information see our:
For further information on the Commission's views on specific consultation proposals (PfG and related strategies etc), please see our consultation responses tab above.

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The Equality Commission's PfG Responses

For further information on how the Equality Commission considers its PfG recommendations are being advanced through the draft PfG and delivery plans, see our responses outlined below:

Commission Response to the Programme for Government draft outcomes framework

The Equality Commission has responded to the NI Executive's consultation on its Programme for Government draft outcomes framework.

Commission Response to the Department for the Economy’s draft Industrial Strategy (April 2017)

Overall, whilst we welcome a number of initiatives and commitments in the draft Industrial Strategy which have the potential to advance equality of opportunity for Section 75 equality groups, we consider that there is additional scope for the promotion of equality and good relations to be embedded and mainstreamed across the Industrial Strategy.

In particular, we consider that the ‘pillars for growth’ should explicitly take account of known inequalities and ensure that appropriate actions are included to target the needs of particular Section 75 equality groups.


Commission Responses to Programme for Government (PfG) Proposed Delivery Plans (Jan 2017)

The Equality Commission has responded to a number of draft delivery plans associated with the draft Programme for Government 2016-21.


Commission Response to Programme for Government (PfG) Consultation (Dec 2016)

The Equality Commission has responded to the NI executive's consultation on a draft Programme for Government 2016-21.
The NI Executive's consultation closed on 23 December 2016.

Commission Response to PfG Framework Consultation (July 2016)

The Equality Commission welcomes and strongly supports the focus of the Programme for Government (PfG) Framework on achieving outcomes. This approach has the potential to advance equality of opportunity and good relations in Northern Ireland.

We also support the emphasis to focus on the impact on people rather than solely on the actions taken within Government, the emphasis on working across Government and on full engagement and co-design with stakeholders. This approach has the potential to be transformative and to deliver tangible outcomes and the Commission looks forward to the opportunity to work closely with the Executive to advance equality of opportunity and good relations through the PfG.

We however make a number of recommendations in support of advancing equality or opportunity and good relations:

Our recommendations in brief:
  • We recommend that the PfG makes explicit that all relevant PfG measures (and as such all relevant indicators and all outcomes) will be tracked, not only in aggregate, but also for each of the Section 75 grounds.

Why? While the Framework includes some clear references to equality and good relations, there is a need to ensure mainstreaming of equality across the Framework as a whole.
  • We recommend that the Executive ensures that PfG measures are sufficient to track progress fundamental to achieving stated outcomes.
Why? In the Framework, 'measures' can be much more narrowly defined than their parent 'indicator' (or 'outcome'). For example, the 'shared space' indicator is measured only in relation to certain facilities (eg leisure centres). The PfG Framework does not therefore contain any measures on shared space more generally, or in employment, education or housing etc.

  • We recommend that the Department review the evidence base already gathered for the PfG through the lens of Section 75. This evidence should be set out and inform the assessment of impacts via screening and/or EQIA documentation.

Why? The work and functions of the the Executive Office, including with other Departments and Councils to deliver the PfG, are subject to the statutory equality and good relations duties - including the application of Equality Scheme commitments.

Our formal response also sets out a number of recommendations with regards to the proposed outcomes, indicators and measures.
Read our Consultation Response documents:

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