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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) 2016-21

The Commission has set out key recommendations and priorities for delivery via Executive over the 2016-21 mandate.

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 to addressing key inequalities experienced by the Section 75 equality groups, as well as to promoting good relations;
  • promoting equality of opportunity and good relations are cross-cutting themes across all Government strategies, policy development and actions - including the PfG;
  • all relevant PfG measures are not only tracked in aggregate but also for the impact on individuals from each of the Section 75 grounds.
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

Download our Social Attitudes PfG priorities and recommendations (pdf, 1 page, 268kb)


We recommend actions to:

  • ensure a move to a system of education which routinely teaches all pupils together via a shared curriculum in shared classes, and where sharing impacts meaningfully and substantively on every learner
  • tackle prejudice based bullying; address gender stereotyping in education; and remove the barriers facing looked after children and young carers
  • address education inequalities, including those experienced by Irish Travellers; those entitled to free school meals, particularly boys, notably Protestant boys; and children/young people with disabilities
  • mainstream equality in education, including in the curriculum, teacher training and the policies/practices of schools and wider education bodies

Download our Education PfG priorities and recommendations (pdf, 2 pages, 358kb)


We recommend actions to:

  • 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
  • support people with disabilities to access and remain in the workplace
  • ensure training and programmes to enable people to get into or stay in work that are accessible and inclusive for all

Download our Employment PfG priorities and recommendations (pdf, 2 pages, 410kb)

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 and women, and the barriers experienced by minority ethnic communities (including asylum seekers and refugees)
  • identify/commit to specific measures which will mitigate the adverse impact of welfare reform, or any alternate policies which might better achieve the promotion of equality of opportunity

Download our Social Protection PfG priorities and recommendations (pdf, 1 page, 270kb)

Accommodation, housing & communities

We recommend actions to:

  • develop safe, shared communities based on equality, dignity and respect
  • ensure that everyone has access to a safe, secure home and enjoys the right to independent living, including for people with disabilities and older people
  • address the housing needs of particular equality groups, such as Irish Travellers, and minority ethnic communities (including migrant workers and refugees)

Health & social care and well being

We recommend actions to:

  • identify and remove barriers to health and social care and well being experienced by particular Section 75 equality groups, including older people; lesbian, gay, bisexual 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:

  • increase the participation of women in political/public life and decision making, including peacebuilding
  • promote the participation of other under-represented Section 75 groups in public life, including people with disabilities, lesbian, gay and bisexual people; older people, and minority ethnic communities

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

Download our Law Reform PfG priorities and recommendations (pdf, 1 page, 270kb)

Gaps in equality data

We recommend actions to:

  • address the 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

Download our Equality Data PfG priorities and recommendations (pdf,1 page, 271kb)

Develop and implement equality strategies

We recommend actions to:

  • ensure effective equality/ good relations strategies and action plans are implemented and updated across the full range of anti-discrimination grounds
  • set out a timetabled commitment to take this key work forward - including as regards a Gender Equality Strategy; a Racial Equality Strategy; a Disability Strategy; a Sexual Orientation Strategy; a Children and Young Person’s Strategy; an Active Ageing Strategy, as well as a Strategy to promote good relations (Together: Building a United Community: TBUC)

Download our Equality Strategies PfG priorities and recommendations (pdf, 1 page, 271kb)

Comply with international conventions

We recommend actions to:

  • address key shortfalls in Northern Ireland so as to ensure compliance with obligations under international human rights conventions, including the UN Convention on the Rights of People with Disabilities (UNCRPD)

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 fulfil 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.

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, related strategies and delivery plans 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 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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