Equality and Equity Report

CCRU home background on CCRU community relations equality and equity research




Central Community Relations Unit
July 1995


Origins of PAFT Initiative
Issues Raised by the PAFT Guidelines
Implementation in 1994
Impact on Relevant Groups
Appendix 1 - Department of Agriculture
Appendix 2 - Department of Economic Development
Appendix 3 - Department of Education
Appendix 4 - Department of the Environment
Appendix 5 - Department of Finance and Personnel
Appendix 6 - Department of Health and Social Services
Appendix 7 - Northern Ireland Office
Appendix 8 - Central Secretariat


In 1993 1 approved the issue to the Northern Ireland Office and the Northern Ireland Departments of guidelines on Policy Appraisal and Fair Treatment. This had followed a process of consultation with relevant external bodies, which was probably unprecedented in preparing internal administrative guidelines in Northern Ireland. The outcome of that process of consultation was a document which broke new ground in equality proofing for Government policies and the delivery of services.

The guidance set up a mechanism, whereby an annual report would be made to me on the action taken to implement PAFT. I subsequently decided that this annual report, and the reports of individual Departments, should be published. This should enable those bodies which had been consulted in preparing the guidance, and anyone else who is interested in the subject, to assess progress. I am now able to present the first of these annual reports, covering 1994.

I hope that those reading this detailed document will recognise that the development of PAFT must be an evolving process. Comments and advice, either to the relevant Departments or to the Central Community Relations Unit at Stormont, will be most useful in assisting that evolution.

Above all, I am sure that readers of this report will acknowledge the seriousness with which the administration in Northern Ireland has approached the challenges of the first year of PAFT.





1.1. 1994 was the first year of the application by Northern Ireland Departments and Agencies of the Policy Appraisal and Fair Treatment (PAFT) guidelines, issued by Central Secretariat in December 1993. The guidance required Departments and Agencies to submit a yearly report to Central Secretariat outlining the action taken in implementing PAFT. Those reports would form the basis for a report from Central Secretariat to the Secretary of State and Ministers. The original guidance did not refer to the publication of this report, but the Secretary of State decided in July 1994 that the Central Secretariat report should be published, with the Departmental reports as annexes. In line with that decision, this report has been prepared by the Central Community Relations Unit, which is part of Central Secretariat and which has responsibility for oversight of the PAFT initiative.
1.2 PAFT derives from an initiative launched in the 1980s on a UK-wide basis by the Ministerial Group on Women's Issues, which encouraged all Whitehall Departments to develop basic guidance with a view to producing tailored guidelines on equality proofing, specific to their own needs. For purposes of this initiative, the Northern Ireland Departments and the Northern Ireland Office were regarded as a single Department. Because of our particular circumstances Northern Ireland was to the fore in making early progress on the equality proofing initiative.
1.3 In 1990 a circular was issued giving advice to all Northern Ireland civil servants about the need to consider questions of direct and indirect discrimination in relation to religious affiliation, political opinion and gender. The circular also provided a broad outline of the existing legal position. A number of outside interests, including statutory bodies with responsibilities for equality issues and the trade unions, criticised the guidance on the grounds that other areas where direct or indirect discrimination might occur were excluded, for example, race, disability, age. The circular was also criticised on the grounds that it did not convey a sufficiently positive approach to the issues, nor give sufficient advice to Departments about the need for affirmative action, should issues of discrimination or differential impact emerge in policy reviews. In February 1991 the then Northern Ireland Minister responsible for the Economy, Richard Needham MP, undertook to have these guidelines revised in the light of the concerns which had been expressed.
1.4 The Central Community Relations Unit, a part of the Northern Ireland Civil Service which is outside the departmental structure and reports directly to the Head of the Civil Service, was given responsibility for the revision of the guidance. In doing so, CCRU embarked on a programme of external consultation which was unprecedented in drawing up internal administrative guidelines. SACHR, the Fair Employment Commission, the Equal Opportunities Commission, Disability Action and the Northern Ireland Committee of the Irish Congress of Trade Unions were formally invited to comment on a draft of the guidelines. Constructive comments were received from all of these bodies and two other organisations offered their unsolicited views. As far as possible, the comments from external bodies were integrated into a substantial revision of the guidelines. In addition, the Northern Ireland Office and Northern Ireland Departments were consulted on the text. As a final step, the revised guidance received the endorsement of the Secretary of State and Northern Ireland Ministers, before issue as Central Secretariat Circular 5/93 on 22 December 1993. Copies were sent to those organisations which had contributed their views during the external consultation process. The Circular came into effect from 1 January 1994.
1.5 The Northern Ireland PAFT guidance is being used as a model of good practice and Whitehall Departments are following with close interest the implementation of the PAFT initiative.

2.1 The aim of the PAFT initiative is to ensure that, in practice, issues of equality and equity condition policy-making and action in all spheres and at all levels of Government activity, whether in regulatory and administrative functions or in the delivery of services to the public. The guidelines identify a number of areas where there is potential for discrimination or unequal treatment to occur and outline steps which those responsible for the development of policy and the delivery of services should take to ensure that, in drawing up new policies or reviewing existing policies, they do not unjustifiably or unnecessarily discriminate against specified sections of the community.
2.2 Groups coming within the scope of the guidelines include people of different gender, age, ethnic group, religious belief or political opinion; married and unmarried people; disabled and non-disabled people; people with or without dependants; and .people of differing sexual orientation.
Role of Departments and CCRU
2.3 Although CCRU has a key challenge role in respect of equality and equity issues in Departments' programmes and oversight of the implementation of PAFT, it is essential that Departments take full responsibility for assessing the implications of their own policies in relation to PAFT and for giving concrete effect to the guidance within their own spheres of activity, where they have the detailed expertise to make the most effective impact. CCRU monitors how Departments' policies are being translated into practice, and promotes and co-ordinates action, where appropriate. CCRU, however, has no power to insist, in the context of PAFT or otherwise, that a particular policy be recommended to Ministers, nor that a particular course of action be adopted by a Department or enjoined upon a non-departmental public body (NDPB). Indeed, it would be wholly inappropriate for the normal process of decision-making and accountability to be distorted in that way.
Application of PAFT Outside Departments
2.4 During the consultation phase, several of the organisations stressed that the PAFT guidelines should not apply solely to Northern Ireland Departments, but should also be adopted by Agencies, NDPBs and organisations performing contracted-out services on behalf of Departments. Next Step Agencies are under the direct control of Ministers, as parts of Government departments, and the PAFT guidelines make clear that such Agencies must comply with PAFT. Next Step Agencies are therefore included within the scope of the Departmental annexes attached to this report. On the other hand, the relationship between Departments and NDPBs varies greatly, depending on the statutory basis of the body. The guidelines, which have been disseminated to NDPBs, require Departments to use all appropriate means to ensure NDPB compliance with PAFT. Parent Departments, however, will expect PAFT to be covered in the annual reports of such bodies, and their implementation of PAFT is not therefore covered in this report. Departments will also use their best endeavours to secure compliance with PAFT by bodies performing contracted-out services on their behalf. Departments are anxious that services to the public, delivered on their behalf, should be consistent with the spirit of PAFT. Encouragement of contractors to that end, however, should be consistent with contractual and legal obligations, including European Union law on public procurement.
Resources, Training and Monitoring
2.5 The initiative was launched in a very constrained public expenditure context and, in its initial year, had to be implemented within existing departmental manpower and financial resources. This has inevitably led to additional workload on staff. Some aspects of the implementation of PAFT make demands on resources. As far as possible, basic training on PAFT is being integrated into existing Departmental training modules. The monitoring of service uptake by the various categories of the population covered by PAFT needs to be prioritised in the light of resource constraints. Many Departments and Agencies already have monitoring systems created in response to statutory requirements or the Targeting Social Need (TSN) initiative. The development of such databases to include other categories will, it is hoped, be progressively achieved. However, not all of the PAFT categories are equally relevant to all Departments. Monitoring for some categories may be technically difficult. Accordingly, for both training and monitoring, the rate of implementation will be influenced by the availability of resources.
Retrospective Policy Proofing
2.6 In the course of the consultation process, some organisations suggested that any policies introduced since the 1990 equality proofing circular should be immediately reviewed against the PAFT principles. Ministers decided that this would put an undue burden on Departments. Major policy areas are, in any event, subject to review by Departments on a five yearly basis and significant policy developments since 1990 would be reviewed in the normal course.
Autonomy of Departments
2.7 Northern Ireland Departments are committed to assessing their new and existing policies against PAFT principles, but often they do not have complete autonomy over those policies. Some Departments (principally DANI) have certain of their policies determined at European Union level while others (principally DHSS) need to maintain parity with Great Britain. Their scope for adjusting such policies to meet PAFT concerns is therefore constrained. in the case of parity measures with Great Britain, it is to be expected that, in most cases, Whitehall Departments would carry out some form of equality proofing. This, however, might not necessarily cover specifically Northern Ireland concerns, notably the possibility of direct or indirect discrimination on the basis of religion or political opinion. In such cases, the Northern Ireland PAFT exercise relates only to those aspects not being considered in Whitehall and the attention of GB Departments is drawn to instances where a differential impact was anticipated in Northern Ireland.
Compatibility With Other Initiatives
2.8 PAFT complements and reinforces other Government initiatives. The drive for a more customer-orientated service culture in the public sector is fully compatible with PAFT. The Targeting Social Need (TSN) initiative predates PAFT by several years. One of the effects should be to reduce unfair social and economic differentials by targeting resources more effectively on people and areas in greatest need and this complements PAFT. As the guidance itself makes clear, PAFT has not superseded TSN. TSN is primarily concerned with socio-economic differentials based on religious background. PAFT, however, is not confined to socio-economic issues and concerns a much broader range of social groups.
2.9 Economic regeneration will improve the status of many disadvantaged groups and enable more people to participate in society on an equitable basis. In the longer term 1994 may have particular significance for equality and equity policies, as the ceasefires brought expectations of a period of durable peace in Northern Ireland. This also held out the prospect of an economic "peace dividend" utilising resources redirected from the security effort, increased contributions from the European Union, investment from the United States and the mobilisation of local energies in a new era of reconciliation and regeneration.

3.1 Guidance on PAFT was widely disseminated within the public sector in Northern Ireland. As with all Central Secretariat Circulars, it was distributed within the Northern Ireland Departments to staff at Grades 7 and above. As it also had application to the Northern Ireland Office, it was circulated by the Establishment Officer of that Department to Heads of Division. As had been requested by Central Secretariat, Departments informed Non Departmental Public Bodies for which they were responsible about the guidance and encouraged them to apply its principles.
3.2 It was recognised at an early stage that Departments would need to appoint an individual senior officer with direct responsibility for the progress of PAFT. These PAFT Lead Officers were normally the Grade 5 officials responsible for central policy and management units in each Department. At the suggestion of CCRU, a PAFT Lead Officers' Group was formed as a forum for discussion between the lead officers, at which experience could be pooled and common approaches developed. The first meeting of the PAFT Lead Officers' Group was held in March 1994 and subsequent meetings have been organised at quarterly intervals. Topics discussed at these meetings have included training and monitoring requirements, particular issues arising from PAFT implementation and the format of departmental annual reports. The Group will remain in existence and will play a key role in further development of this initiative.
3.3 The introduction of PAFT also required amendment to certain procedures. For example, Departmental submissions to the Secretary of State, requesting permission to prepare legislation and subsequently to publish proposals for draft legislation all follow a common format set by Central Secretariat. This format was amended to provide for Permanent Secretaries of Departments to certify that the proposed legislation had been scrutinised in terms of the PAFT guidance, and explain in detail whether it had any significant implications for the groups listed in the guidance.
3.4 The Department of Finance and Personnel (DFP) in January 1994 incorporated a requirement for a PAFT assessment in its formal guidelines on Departmental policy evaluations which are used in the five yearly reviews of major policies.
3.5 The PAFT guidance requires Departments and Agencies to include elements on PAFT in induction, background and management training. During 1994 Departments have initiated steps to implement this by expanding the scope of existing training modules. Specialist centralised training on issues such as legislation has also been revised to take account of PAFT. CCRU officials have briefed the Interdepartmental Training Development Group and have taken forward with the Personnel Policy and Development Division of DFP an examination of the scope for specific centralised training courses. The Department of the Environment and the Northern Ireland Office organised seminars on PAFT for senior officials, at which representatives of CCRU explained the PAFT principles and obtained feedback from those responsible for implementing the guidelines. The further development of training will remain a priority in 1995 and beyond.

4.1The individual departmental and Central Secretariat reports printed at Appendices 1 to 8 set out in detail the action taken during 1994 to identify the scope for direct or indirect discrimination in the formulation of new policies, the review of existing policies and delivery of services. This section of the main report considers each of the eight categories where potential discrimination might arise and gives an overview of developments in respect of the relevant groups.
People of Different Religious Beliefs or Political Opinions
4.2Section 19 of the Northern Ireland Constitution Act 1973 makes it unlawful for Government Departments and other parts of the public sector to discriminate directly on the ground of religious belief or political opinion. The Act also established the Standing Advisory Commission on Human Rights to advise the Secretary of State on religious and political discrimination. The Fair Employment Acts 1976 and 1989 also outlaw direct and indirect discrimination in the field of employment. The PAFT guidance, therefore, operates in the category of religion and political opinion against a background of a corpus of established laws which probably constitute the toughest anti-discrimination legislation in Europe. These are issues to which Government Departments are already highly sensitised. Monitoring data on religious community background already exist in many instances, either because of the statutory obligations on Departments as employers under the fair employment legislation, or in consequence of the TSN initiative.
4.3 A major review of employment equality in respect of religion and political opinion was scheduled for 1995, drawing on five years' experience of the working of the Fair Employment Act 1989. This was originally planned to have been undertaken by CCRU, but following representations from a number of interests, the Secretary of State decided in November 1994 to reassign responsibility to SACHR as a demonstration of Government's desire to have the independence of the review fully recognised.
4.4 The Government has acknowledged for several years that on most socio-economic indicators, the Catholic community as a whole fares worse than the Protestant community. This analysis led to the launching of the TSN initiative, one of the effects of which should be to reduce unfair social and economic differentials by targeting resources more effectively on those people and areas in greatest need. This is not a policy of positive discrimination in favour of Catholics, as disadvantaged Protestants will also benefit from the initiative. However, to ensure that the allocation of resources is carried out on an objective basis, reliable data is essential. In 1994 DFP's Policy Planning and Research Unit published a major work of statistical analysis by Professor Robson of Manchester University which will greatly assist in the future identification of areas of need. Using data from the 1991 census, Professor Robson has measured deprivation at ward and sub-ward level throughout Northern Ireland. The sensitivity of the analysis means that small pockets of deprivation, often associated with disadvantaged Protestant areas, can be identified.
4.5 One of the first uses to which Professor Robson's research was put was in the identification of areas for future action under the Making Belfast Work (MBW) Strategy Document. This major initiative channels £25m additional resources annually to combat disadvantage in Belfast. The principles of TSN also inform a range of other programmes across all Departments, including DED's training and economic development activities and the Department of Agriculture's Rural Development Programme. TSN remained, in 1994, the Government's third Public Expenditure Priority in Northern Ireland, after law and order, and strengthening the economy.
4.6 The Government recognises that new geographically-focused initiatives should be designed to ensure an equitable balance across the two main religious communities. An example was the selection of areas for the extension of NIO's Safer Towns Scheme. It was recognised that, using the criteria previously applied, there was likely to be an absence from the initiative of working class Catholic areas. The criteria were therefore revised and Newry was chosen as one of the two towns for the extension of the scheme.
4.7 Finally, in 1994 the Government published its proposal for legislation on street names, which removed the legislative prohibition on street names in the Irish language. This had long been regarded as discriminatory by Nationalists and the Government regarded it as incompatible with its policy of respect for cultural diversity. In drafting new legislation to replace the prohibition, DOE took account of the need to strike an equitable balance, both between those who wished for Irish-only or English-only signs, and also between the wishes of residents and the responsibilities of District Councils.
Men and Women
4.8 As with religion and political opinion, statute law (the Sex Discrimination (NI) Order 1976) provides a framework within which administrative action under the PAFT guidance must be placed. The Order outlaws both discrimination in employment and in the provision of goods and services on the grounds of sex. Legal sanctions can, therefore, be brought to bear on Departments and Agencies to ensure that men and women are treated equally.
4.9 There is, however, scope for administrative action to promote women's issues in Departmental policies. In 1994 a second round of Action Plans for all Northern Ireland Departments, co-ordinated by DED received Ministerial approval. An inter-departmental group on women's issues co-ordinates policies in this field. In 1994 it established a working group on domestic violence; and registered progress on the recruitment of women to public bodies, with 31% of positions being held by women, which fell just short of the target increase from 23% to 33% set in 1991.
4.10 The Civil Service, as an employer, can and does also facilitate women's participation in the work force by encouraging flexible working. In 1994 DFP, as the Department responsible for personnel throughout the Civil Service, commissioned research from external consultants on the culture of the Northern Ireland Civil Service and its impact on equality of opportunity for male and female staff. This was published in February 1995 and widely disseminated throughout all Departments. In addition, DED's Industrial Research and Technology Unit has adopted a specific commitment in its new corporate plan to help promote the role of women in science and engineering.
4.11 Finally, Government Departments have directly assisted a wide range of local initiatives for women under programmes such as Making Belfast Work, the Londonderry Regeneration Initiative, and DHSS's European Union-funded Community Infrastructure programme. These initiatives are harnessing the growing momentum of women's grass roots organisations to contribute to local community development. This is one of the most striking features of community regeneration in recent years.
Married and Unmarried People
4.12 The Sex Discrimination (NI) Order 1976 prohibits discrimination against married people of either sex in. the employment field and, on grounds of fairness, most of the older legal distinctions between married and unmarried people have been progressively removed. However, the Government, and society generally, still acknowledge the value of marriage as an institution. Unlike several other forms of discrimination, there may be circumstances where drawing such a distinction is appropriate and justifiable.
4.13 Appendix 2 on DED's implementation of PAFT highlights the particular issue of spouses, who had been ineligible to claim benefit in their own right, and who wish to return to the workforce through T&EA schemes. Those targeted on the registered unemployed, such as the new Jobskills programme, would potentially disadvantage such people, who are often female. Other T&EA programmes, notably ACE, attract a high proportion of married women. In this case, the range of T&EA programmes need to be seen as a whole, providing a number of options for trainees and returners.
People With or Without Dependants
4.14 It is recognised that people with dependants, particularly young children, may need special assistance to counter disadvantage. This may take the form of financial help, notably Child Benefit, or assistance to participate in the workforce. In the latter context, child care and nursery provision can be particularly relevant. In September 1994 DHSS and DENI jointly published "Early Years Provision in Northern Ireland". This sets out Government policy in a field which impacts on several levels - for instance, by releasing parents, particularly women, for work; and by giving a solid foundation for future education at a crucial period in a child's development.
People of Different Ethnic Groups
4.15 At present, race relations legislation does not extend to Northern Ireland but the Government has recently announced its intention to introduce an Order in Council which will outlaw race discrimination in employment and in the provision of goods and services. During 1994 CCRU was engaged in considering the outcome of a major consultation process on race relations. Though the ethnic minority population of Northern Ireland is relatively small (less than 1% of the total population), Departments have responded to need for specific services geared towards the Chinese population and the traveller community in areas where they are represented. DOE, T&EA and CCRU also provide grant assistance to a range of organisations working with ethnic minority communities.
4.16 Departments and Agencies are becoming increasingly aware of the linguistic needs of ethnic minority communities. The Social Security Agency is producing posters and leaflets on benefit schemes for the main ethnic minority groups. The Health and Social Services Boards have jointly provided funding for a part time interpreter to work with the Chinese community. The Belfast Education and Library Board has provided two peripatetic primary teachers in English as a foreign language to assist with the education of ethnic minority children.
4.17 At the end of 1994 CCRU and other Departments commissioned research to provide a demographic, social and employment profile of the largest ethnic minority groups in Northern Ireland, and to obtain information on linguistic competence, on access to services, and on experience of harassment and discrimination. DOE also commissioned an interdepartmental review of policies affecting travellers, which was due for completion in 1995.
People With Or Without a Disability
4.18 Disability rights became a significant issue on a UK-wide basis in 1994 with a series of Private Members' Bills and a Government announcement of its own new legislation, which will apply to Northern Ireland.
4.19In advance of such legislation, Northern Ireland Departments and Agencies can do much to facilitate disabled people, particularly through the provision of information and improved access. The Social Security Agency has taken steps to improve its services for disabled people, particularly those with visual or hearing impairments. DOE reviewed its approach to driving tests for disabled people in 1994.
4.20 Building regulations which came into operation in 1994 included new requirements for addressing the needs of disabled people in the construction, alteration and extension of non-domestic buildings. 1DB had already been active in providing access for the disabled to factories.
4.21 DHSS also completed its policy review, "People with a Learning Disability. This proposed a policy of inclusion to enable people with a learning disability to avail of mainstream services.
People of Different Ages
4.22 Programmes may often distinguish between people of different ages for justifiable reasons, eg the right to draw pension benefits. The purpose of the PAFT guidance is not to eliminate such distinctions, but to ensure that Departments and Agencies carefully consider whether they are unintentional or unjustified.
4.23 An example of disadvantage related to age occurs in the T&EA's new Jobskills programme. European Union assistance gives priority to those aged under 25, and Government policy is to guarantee entry to Jobskills to those under 18. There are valid reasons for this programme targeting the young unemployed at an important stage in their employment history. The wider range of T&EA schemes offers alternative opportunities (such as ACE) for those aged over 25.
People of Differing Sexual Orientation
4.24 During 1994 Parliament amended the law on homosexual offences in Northern Ireland, lowering the age of consent for homosexual acts between males from 21 to 18. The same reduction was also made in Great Britain. Both changes were effected through Private Members' amendments to the Criminal Justice and Public Order Bill. Though the age of consent for homosexual acts remains higher than that for heterosexual acts, the differential of one year in Northern Ireland is half that in Great Britain. The maintenance of such a differential can be justified as a reflection of public and Parliamentary opinion.
4.25 Of all the categories covered by PAFT, sexual orientation is probably least amenable to effective monitoring. Individuals may not be willing to disclose their orientation. There are therefore no plans to develop monitoring under this category.

5.1 The role and impact of the PAFT guidance need to be kept in perspective. It can only complement, rather than substitute for, legislation. It is essentially an administrative process. However, within its limitations, the PAFT guidance has taken root in the culture of Northern Ireland administration. As with all culture change, the process may take time to come to fruition. But Departments and Agencies have made the important initial commitment and are prepared to learn from experience. It is now planned to identify best practice, disseminate information on it to Departments through the PAFT Lead Officers Group and encourage its wider adoption, as part of a broader forward momentum.
5.2 In this respect, the publication of this first annual report can play an important role. It will allow the public, particularly those non Governmental organisations with an interest in the categories of potential discrimination listed in the PAFT guidance, to judge the performance of Departments. They can provide valuable feedback by commenting to Departments on their performance during 1994 and of perceived scope for improvement in future years. PAFT is an evolving process and the contribution of this report to the debate should be reflected in the next annual report.

Central Secretariat
July 1995

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