Equality and Equity Report

CCRU home background on CCRU community relations equality and equity research





-Background to PAFT Initiative
-Implementation in 1996
-Impact on Relevant Groups
-The Future of PAFT

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 1994 I undertook to make available Annual Reports on the implementation of the Government's Policy Appraisal and Fair Treatment (PAFT) guidelines. That policy had come into operation at the beginning of that year, and had already attracted the attention of many individuals and organisations with an interest in equality issues. Two Annual Reports were subsequently issued and I am now able to introduce the Third PAFT Annual Report, covering the calendar year 1996.

Last year saw the publication of equal treatment guidelines, similar to PAFT, for the use of Government Departments in Great Britain. These did not supersede PAFT in Northern Ireland and, in many ways, our local initiative has shown the way for other parts of the United Kingdom public administration. 1996 will also be remembered as a year which saw a regrettable deterioration in relations between the two main sections of the community in Northern Ireland. Despite such setbacks, the Government will continue to approach the deep-seated problems of Northern Ireland on the basis of equality of opportunity, equity of treatment and parity of esteem. The difficulties of last year should not obscure the real progress made towards equality objectives, particularly in the case of ethnic minorities and disabled people.

The report contains both an over-view of 1996 and departmental annexes. As has been the case with previous reports, anyone with specific comments to make, or advice to offer for future reports, is invited to write to the Central Community Relations Unit or to the relevant Department.



APRIL 1997





1.1This is the third Annual Report on the implementation by Northern Ireland Departments and the Northern Ireland Office of the Government's Policy Appraisal and Fair Treatment (PAFT) initiative. Central Secretariat issued guidelines to Departments in December 1993, which required the preparation of an annual report to the Secretary of State and Ministers. In Summer 1994, the Secretary of State decided that the annual reports should be published. As in previous years, the preparation of the annual report has been undertaken by the Central Community Relations Unit (a part of Central Secretariat) which has central policy responsibility for the initiative. It includes annexes, setting out in detail the application of the PAFT guidelines in the work of the six Northern Ireland Departments, the Northern Ireland Office and Central Secretariat. This main report highlights particularly relevant aspects of the implementation of the initiative last year, including parallel developments in Great Britain and judicial review cases citing PAFT. 1996 also saw a growing corpus of academic comment on PAFT, particularly in the context of the Standing Advisory Commission on Human Rights review of employment equality. This is also discussed in this report.
1.2 The aim of the PAFT initiative is to ensure that issues of equality and equity inform policy making and action in all spheres and at all levels of Government activity, whether in regulatory and administrative functions or the delivery of services to the public. The guidelines identify a number of areas where there is potential for discrimination or unequal treatment and outline steps which those responsible for the development of policy and the delivery of services should take to ensure that they do not unjustifiably or unnecessarily discriminate against specified sections of the community. Categories of potential discrimination identified within the scope of the guidelines include people of different gender; age; ethnic origin; 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. In the cases of discrimination on the grounds of religion or political opinion, gender and marital status, and disability Northern Ireland statute law provides legal protection. Draft legislation on racial discrimination in Northern Ireland was at an advanced stage at the end of 1996 and has subsequently passed all stages of the Parliamentary Process. The guidelines, however, extend beyond the sphere of statutory protection requiring Departments to take regard of wider issues of equity, avoiding unjustifiable discrimination, even when the action in question is not illegal.
1.3 1996 saw the release of new guidance on policy appraisal on equality issues in Great Britain. The Department for Education and Employment (formerly the Department for Employment) has had policy responsibility since the 1980s for the development of equality proofing guidelines. PAFT itself had derived its initial impetus from the early stages of this UK-wide initiative but rapidly achieved a higher profile than comparable developments in Departments in Great Britain. The Beijing World Conference on Women of 1995 promoted the mainstreaming of gender equality in governmental activity. The Department for Education and Employment (DFEE) revised its earlier internal guidance as the vehicle for carrying this forward in the United Kingdom. The experience of PAFT in Northern Ireland informed DFEE's thinking in several respects; for instance, discriminatory and differential impacts on people of different religious beliefs or political opinions were included for the first time in the revised GB guidance. The new draft guidelines, known as Policy Appraisal for Equal Treatment (PAET), were issued by DFEE to other Departments in July 1996. Copies were placed in the House of Commons Library and were made available to the public on request. This put GB guidance for the first time in the public domain. It was suggested that other Departments should tailor the draft guidelines to their own conditions and disseminate them internally. As the Northern Ireland PAFT guidelines had been operational since 1994, it was decided that they should not be superseded by the new DFEE model. In some respects the arrangements for PAFT in Northern Ireland go beyond the GB guidelines: the publication of an annual PA-FT report is an example.
1.4 PAFT also attracted other external interest during 1996. In the Republic of Ireland, the National Economic and Social Forum published a report on equality proofing in February. This commanded PAFT as a model which might be considered by the Irish public sector.
1.5 As was the case with the first annual report, the report for 1995 invited comments with a view to informing the future development of PAFT. Three major institutional responses were received. On 2 October 1996 the Chairperson and senior officers of the Equal Opportunities Commission met with senior officials from Central Secretariat and the Central Community Relations Unit to discuss the 1995 report. Several issues were raised, notably the prominence given in the report to gender issues. The Northern Ireland Committee of the Irish Congress of Trade Unions wrote to the Head of the Civil Service in October 1996 on the subject of the second annual report, requesting a meeting for further discussion. This was held on 19 December and, while noting that the 1995 report was an improvement on its predecessor, NIC/ICTU made several criticisms. More generally, there was a call for a stronger over-sight role for the Central Community Relations Unit and a proposal that PAFT should be put on a statutory basis (see below para 4.2). The Chairman of the Standing Advisory Commission on Human Rights wrote to the Head of the Northern Ireland Civil Service on 20 November with the Commission's comments on the 1995 annual report. The Chairman's letter, which was critical in tone, proposed inter alia that there should be a stronger analytical component in the report. A subsequent response from the Head of the Civil Service answered the points raised in detail. PAFT was also on the agenda for the regular annual meeting between SACHR and the Secretary of State, originally scheduled for December 1996, but postponed until 3 February 1997.


2.1 In contrast to the optimism which had characterised life in Northern Ireland after the ceasefires of Autumn 1994, 1996 was a year of disappointment with increasing polarisation between the two main sections of the community. The IRA ceasefire ended in February and later in the year regular terrorist activity returned to Northern Ireland. The issue of parades and marching dominated political attention during the summer, with serious communal confrontations during the Drumcree crisis of July. These events embittered inter-communal relations with the manifestation of overt sectarian behaviour in some places. Arson attacks on buildings associated with either community were frequent. In Autumn 1996 boycotting of Unionist traders was reported particularly from several small towns in the South and West of Northern Ireland. Towards the end of the year, organised picketing of Roman Catholic Churches in North Antrim occurred. Though reduced in scale, boycotting and Church blockading persisted in a limited number of locations into the new year. The Government condemned all symptoms of sectarian attitudes, and the Police were committed to take appropriate action when the law was broken.
2.2 Meanwhile, important steps were being taken to create the conditions for sustainable political dialogue. The Government's approach continued to be founded on the need to achieve agreed arrangements, widely acceptable and fair in their application to all parts of the community. Equality of opportunity equity of treatment and parity of esteem remained key principles of Government policy. The Northern Ireland (Entry to Negotiations etc) Act 1996 created an electoral mechanism for participation in a political talks process and for selecting members of a Northern Ireland Forum for Political Dialogue. The electoral system used was innovative and facilitated the involvement of parties representing interests outside the political mainstream, including a women's coalition.


2.3 Against this background of a year of mixed fortunes, the implementation of PAFT was carried forward. The most significant developments were on the training front. The Northern Ireland Office took the initiative of embarking on a programme of PAFT workshops for its staff. In May and June 1996 seven workshops were organised for Belfast and London-based staff. The format involved consideration of external criticisms of the implementation of PAFT and practical sessions, drawing on fictionalised case studies of the type of PAFT appraisals which NIO staff would conduct in their policy formulation and service delivery. In total, 170 staff attended these workshops, including, in addition to those drawn from the NIO and its three Next Steps Agencies, representatives of the Crown Solicitor's Office, the Department of the Director of Public Prosecutions, the Police Authority for Northern Ireland, the RUC and the Probation Board for Northern Ireland.
2.4 In the light of the interest which had been aroused by the NIO initiative, a further workshop was organised at the request of the Chief Executives' Forum for approximately fifty senior staff from the non-departmental public sector. Officials from other Departments attended the NIO training sessions and the Department of the Environment for Northern Ireland adopted a similar format for its own initiative. Again, case studies were developed for training workshops, specific to the Department's work. Eighty eight senior and middle managers from DOE(NI) and its agencies attended a series of seminars in November 1996. A further programme of these seminars was organised for another 80 staff in March 1997. In addition, a PAFT awareness seminar for the Chairmen and Chief Executives of the DOE's NDPBs was conducted by the Permanent Secretary in February 1997. The Central Community Relations Unit participated in the NIO and DOE seminars, both being involved in the preparation of case studies and the provision of speakers. CCRU, DOE(N1) and the University of Ulster collaborated in the production of a training video, which was subsequently made available to other Departments for use in PAFT seminars. The Department of Health and Social Services separately organised its own seminar, attended by over seventy senior staff. Therefore, in the course of 1996 nearly 400 Departmental and public sector staff received detailed PAFT training, focused on the practical aspects of conducting appraisals.

CCRU Advice

2.5 The previous annual report had noted that the Central Community Relations Unit was involved in work at the end of 1995 on good practice models which could be used by Departments when undertaking appraisals. Ultimately, it is for Departments to decide the best approach to an appraisal, given the nature of the policy or service under consideration. CCRU did, however, develop an outline of a basic methodology and some worked appraisals, which could be regarded by Departments as examples of good practice. The basis of this methodology was the identification of those persons affected (both positively and negatively) by the policy or service under consideration. The availability of data on the composition of affected groups would then need to be assessed. Drawing on available data sources, the characteristics of the groups affected would be identified, in terms of the PAFT categories. Comparing, if necessary, with the wider population, the appraisal would then identify any disproportionate impacts on those affected. The nature of such impacts would need to be considered - illegal, direct, indirect, etc. Where legally discriminatory or adverse impact had been identified, issues of mitigation and justification would then need to be considered, including whether the anticipated benefits of the policy or service were sufficient to out-weigh any identified adverse impact.
2.6 Some model appraisals, derived from fictionalised departmental experience, were also prepared, using the methodology above. In the course of preparing PAFT training sessions, some Departments also prepared their own model appraisals, based on the nature of their particular responsibilities. The methodology developed by CCRU relied heavily on statistical data for assessing positive or negative impacts. In response to further requests from Departments for information on data availability, CCRU prepared a guide to commonly available sources for statistical data and other relevant information, including Census material, Labour Force and Continuous Household Surveys, other surveys conducted by the Departments and specific academic research on the needs of particular social groups. Departments have found this guide to be useful and, in some cases, have supplemented it with further data sources particularly relevant to their own needs. It is proposed to produce the guide to data sources in booklet form for wider distribution within Departments. The CCRU methodology, model appraisals and guide to data sources were all disseminated to Departments via the inter-departmental PAFT lead officers groups, which is chaired by CCRU.
2.7 CCRU continues to manage an on-going programme of research on equality issues, which contributes, in both quantitative and qualitative terms, to the knowledge base available for PAFT appraisals. Among projects completed in 1996 were a major study by University of Ulster researchers on the demographic, social and employment profile of the main ethnic minority communities, including their specific needs in terms of access to services and experience of harassment and discrimination; research on the history of the Northern Ireland Indian community; and studies on politico-religious segregation at local level. In 1996 CCRU's Research Branch also agreed to fund substantially a new study on "The Cost of the Troubles" which will highlight the needs of those people who have been physically or psychologically disabled through the Northern Ireland conflict. CCRU-funded independent research by the University of Ulster on the equity of the public appointments system, with reference to religion, gender and disability, continued throughout 1996 and will be completed in summer 1997.
2.8 CCRU also convenes the PAFT Liaison Group, which brings together senior lead officers (usually at Grade 5 level) from the six Northern Ireland Departments and the Northern Ireland Office. In response particularly to criticisms from Professor Osborne of the University of Ulster (see below para 4.1), this group has been meeting on a more formal basis with regular quarterly meetings. It acts as a forum for exchange of good practice and discussion of common problems.

EOC Investigation on Competitive Tendering in Health and Education Services

2.9 As reported in the last PAFT annual report, the Equal opportunities Commission had initiated a general formal investigation under Article 57 of for Northern Ireland the Sex Discrimination (NI) Order 1996 into the impact of competitive tendering in the Health and Education services. An interim report was issued in 1995 and the full report in February 1996. The main findings of the Report were that competitive tendering in the areas investigated had resulted in disproportionate adverse effects for women in relation to job losses, reduced earnings and other working conditions. The EOC investigation, based on the examination of 20 cases, related to competitive tendering in the period 1988 to November 1993. As a result of its findings the report called for the suspension of competitive tendering in the health and education services and made 33 other recommendations on the competitive tendering process, pay, benefit entitlement and pensions.
2.10 Following very careful consideration of the report by an interdepartmental working group of officials an analysis was prepared for Ministers. The Secretary of State subsequently replied to the EOC on 21 January 1997. stating that the Government was unable to accept certain of the report's recommendations, including those relating to the suspension of competitive tendering in the health and education services. A number of the recommendations related to PAFT, and though some of these were not accepted by the Government, it was noted that in other areas current PAFT procedures meet the terms of specific EOC recommendations, including the inclusion in Health and Personal Social Services Trust contracts of a clause on PAFT compliance. In his response to the EOC, the Secretary of State noted the need to establish an appropriate balance, consistent with statutory obligations, between achieving maximum safeguards in relation to equality issues, delivering services to the public as efficiently as practicable, setting the highest quality standards, and attaining best value for money.

PAFT and Judicial Review

2.11 Last year's annual report (para 2.12) had noted the first case of judicial review which had cited PAFT, UNISON and the Down and Lisburn Health Trust (1995). A second case was brought in 1996, Casey and the Department of Education. This concerned a student who wished to attend a private third-level college in Dublin. The Department of Education had revised its criteria for the award of student grants to exclude such colleges, depriving the applicant of the opportunity for a grant in the academic year 1996/97 when he intended to commence his studies. He claimed that a PAFT appraisal ought to have been carried out on the decision, as there was prima facie evidence that more Northern Ireland Catholics than Protestants attended third level institutions in the Republic of Ireland. The Department conceded that a fortnal PAFT appraisal had not been undertaken, given the absence of data on the community background of students attending third level private colleges in the Republic. Previous information on the religion of Northern Ireland students attending higher education institutions in the Republic of Ireland was out of date, did not distinguish between private sector and public institutions, and did not establish discernible trends. There was therefore no reliable information to enable the Department to conclude that the change in the criteria for grant would have a differential impact on any particular group of students.
2.12 In this case the Judge found in favour of the Department. He confirmed that PAFT was a relevant consideration which Departments should take into account in making decisions. However, he held that the Department had been justified in concluding that a formal PAFT appraisal would have been impossible, because of the absence of adequate data. He held that the PAFT guidelines did not have the same rigid application to Departments as legislation. Furthermore, he stated that the Department "must have a margin of appreciation both in respect of the interpretation and the application of the policy". It was for the Department to make that assessment and its decision could not be challenged if it was reasonable. This judgement therefore balanced the commitment to carry out PAFT appraisals with the need for a realistic assessment of whether, given the information available, a valid PAFT appraisal was possible and how exhaustive it should be.
2.13 Two further judicial review applications were lodged in 1996. One again concerned the students awards regulations. These are made annually in essentially the same form, with only minor changes relating to levels of grant, etc. In almost all respects, the regulations followed the pattern of those in force in England and Wales. The application concerned the definition in the regulations of "independent status", which was redefined in 1986 and which determines whether parental income is taken into account when considering a grant. It was claimed that there was discrimination in this respect between married and unmarried people, and that this should have been identified by a PAFT appraisal. The Department's view was that the policy was developed in 1986 and had not been reviewed following the introduction of PAFT. Furthermore, the Department operates a policy of parity with Great Britain, which overall works to the benefit of Northern Ireland students. The definition of "independent status" is the same throughout the United Kingdom. This case did not come to Court and the issue has not been tested.
2.14 At the end of the year a further application for judicial review was submitted in relation to the Department of Education's proposals to reorganise Education and Library Boards. An employee of the Western Education and Library Board applied for judicial review on a number of grounds, including the Department's alleged failure to comply with the PAFT guidelines. In this case, the Department had conducted a PAFT appraisal, the essence of which had been published in a memorandum for the Northern Ireland Forum Education Committee. The application claimed that this appraisal was inadequate. It also contested the Department's view that certain aspects of the PAFT implications of reorganisation, including employment impacts, could be conducted only at later stages of the process, for instance when the locations of Board Headquarters were determined. The Department had contended that PAFT would be a continuous process and all the implications of reorganisation could not be expected to be addressed in a PAFT appraisal at the time when the main policy decision was made. This case had not proceeded to court by the end of the year. In January 1997 the Government decided not to proceed with the legislation on educational reorganisation in advance of a general election. In spite of these latter applications for judicial review, only the Casey and Department of Education case resulted in a judgement which advanced case law. It has established the "margin of appreciation" as a significant factor to be taken into consideration in determining departmental obligations under the PAFT guidelines.


3.1 As in previous reports, appendices 1-8 set out the experience of the six Northern Ireland Departments, Central Secretariat and the Northern Ireland Office in implementing PAFT during 1996, focusing on how the guidelines have informed the formulation of new policies, the review of existing policies and the delivery of services. This section of the main report reviews each of the eight categories of potential discrimination identified in PAFT, drawing together salient points from the departmental reports.

People of Different Religious Beliefs or Political Opinions

3.2 1996 saw important developments in the Government's overall strategy for political development, which seeks to achieve agreed arrangements which are acceptable and fair to all sections of the community. This objective was progressed by the establishment of a talks process and a Northern Ireland Forum following elections in May using an innovative electoral system which secured representation from a very broad spectrum of political opinion. Later in the year, faced with considerable communal polarisation on the subject of parades, the Government established a Commission to review existing arrangements for dealing with this controversial issue.
3.3 The Government continued to support and facilitate SACHR's review of employment equality, which the Secretary of State had requested the Commission to carry forward in 1994. SACHR published some of the results of its commissioned research and consultation process in Summer 1996. The final report and recommendations of the review are anticipated in 1997. At that time, the Goverrunent will give full consideration to SACHRs recommendations.
3.4 The Department of Finance and Personnel reported to the Fair Employment Commission on its review of fair participation and employment practices within the Northern Ireland Civil Service. This is a regular statutory requirement under Section 31 of the Fair Employment (NI) Act 1989. Details of this review will be included in the 1997 report of the DFP Equal Opportunities Unit.
3.5 The collection of data on the uptake of services by community background provides valuable information both for future PAFT assessments and for the implementation of the Government's Targeting Social Need initiative. During 1996 several Departments extended community background monitoring into new areas. The Department of Education began to collect community background data on further education students. The Department of Health and Social Services has initiated a Northern Ireland Survey of Health and Social Well-Being, which will be repeated on a triennial basis, and will enable conclusions to be drawn about the differential health experience of Catholics and Protestants. The Northern Ireland Office has also established a working group on the introduction of community background monitoring systems in the criminal justice system. In many instances, it may be inappropriate for Departments to seek to obtain direct information on community background from service users. CCRU and the Northern Ireland Statistics and Research Agency commenced work in 1996 on the development of geographic proxies for community background, using ward-level Census data. Though intended primarily for use in monitoring the TSN initiative, this research could ultimately have application to PAFT appraisals.

Men and Women

3.6 The twentieth anniversary of sex discrimination legislation in Northern Ireland was marked during 1996. In the period since the passing of the Sex Discrimination Order and the establishment of the Equal Opportunities Commission for Northern Ireland, the concept of gender equality has become firmly established. Since the Beijing conference of 1995, increasing attention has been paid to the mainstreaming of gender issues throughout Government policies, with the PAFT initiative as an important means to achieving this in Northern Ireland. In April 1996 the Department of Economic Development organised the first of a series of annual meetings with women's representatives on progressing the Beijing agenda and other policy issues. Progress achieved in Northern Ireland in implementing the Platform for Action is contained in the UK Report entitled 'One Year On' published in November. DED also launched its Fair Play initiative in February 1996. This initiative aims to promote increased participation by women in the economic and public life of Northern Ireland. Members of the Fair Play Steering Group include the Local Enterprise Development Unit and the Training and Employment Agency, both of which produced publications in support of the initiative during the year. Other members include the EOC(NI), Opportunity 2000(NI) and representatives of business, the voluntary sector and the trade union movement.
3.7 Other Departments were also involved in promoting access for women. The Department of Education carried forward a research project on the factors inhibiting women from achieving senior posts in the teaching profession, with a draft report produced in December. The Department of Agriculture completed a research project on the involvement of women in rural development. CCRU also continued its backing for research on women in public appointments and on the training and development needs of women in community relations and community development.
3.8 The Northern Ireland Office devoted considerable attention to gender issues during 1996. It commissioned an external academic study of the treatment of domestic violence in the justice system. It also prepared a booklet on gender and the criminal justice system, planned for publication in May 1997. A Prison Service review of existing facilities identified a number of unnecessary distinctions in the treatment of male and female prisoners, which were changed to allow for equal treatment. Further details are included at appendix 7. .Married and Unmarried People
3.9 A Proposal for a Family Homes and Domestic Violence (NI) Order was published for consultation by the Office of Law Reform in June 1996, following broadly the lines of recent English legislation. Generally, the draft Order was widely welcomed in that it extends protection from violence to a wider group of people while also streamlining the law on domestic violence and the often related issue of the occupation of the family home. However, concerns were raised that certain provisions of the Order (which mirrored sections of the 1996 Act) unjustifiably discriminated between married and cohabiting applicants. These criticisms prompted a second comprehensive round of consultation in December 1996, the outcome of which will be reported on in next year's Annual Report.
3.10 There were other developments benefiting the position of cohabitees in property law. A Proposal for a Succession (NI) Order was published in March 1996. This identified cohabitees as a new category of applicant under the Inheritance (Provision for Family and Dependants) (NI) Order 1979, to enable a person to apply for financial provision from a deceased's estate, as if he or she had been married to the deceased. This Order was made in December 1996, coming into operation early in 1997. Furthermore, in May 1996 the Government approved an extension of the terms of the Law Reform Advisory Committee's review of matrimonial property law to include a wider group of home sharers, including cohabitees.

People With or Without Dependants

3.11 The PAFT guidelines define this category so as to include women who are pregnant or on maternity leave. In September 1996 the Health and Social Services Executive published Charter Standards for Maternity Services, applying patients' rights and standards of care to maternity care. The DHSS Regional Strategy for Health and Well-Being also contained a number of objectives and targets aimed at people with dependants.

People of Different Ethnic Groups

3.12 As was indicated in the last annual report, the Secretary of State decided in April 1995 to bring forward legislation on race relations in Northern Ireland, specifically including Irish Travellers within its scope. Responsibility for drafting the legislation was assigned to the Department of Economic Development and in July 1996 a Proposal for a Draft Order was published for consultation. The Order, which was approved by Parliament and will be brought into operation in 1997, makes racial discrimination unlawful in employment, training and related matters, in education, in the provision of goods and services, and in the disposal and management of premises. A Commission for Racial Equality for Northern Ireland will be created in 1997 with powers similar to those of the Commission for Racial Equality in Great Britain. The passing of race relations legislation is the most significant development to date in protecting the rights of ethnic minorities in Northern Ireland.
3.13 University of Ulster research, commissioned by CCRU, on the size and needs of the major ethnic minority communities was published in 1996. Though representatives of the Chinese community have disputed the estimate of its size, the research has provided valuable information on the service requirements of members of ethnic communities and will provide a useful source of information for future PAFT appraisals.
3.14 In preparation for race relations legislation, the Department of the Environment re-examined its existing law on the provision of camp sites for Irish Travellers. A draft Local Government (Amendment) (NI) Order was prepared repealing existing provisions which could have been perceived as discriminating between Irish Travellers and other sections of the community. The Police Authority for Northern Ireland took steps to review relationships between the police and ethnic minorities. This indicated a need for greater consultation with ethnic minorities on policing issues and a permanent Special Interests Committee will include liaison with ethnic minorities in its remit.

People With or Without a Disability

3.15 The Disability Discrimination Act, which applies in Northern Ireland, introduced new duties aimed at ending discrimination against disabled people in the areas of employment, access to goods, facilities and services, and in buying or renting land or property. Not all of its provisions came into operation at the same time. In December 1996 it became unlawful to discriminate against a disabled person because of their disability. Service providers and those who let or sell property could no longer refuse a service, or offer a lower standard or worse terms to disabled people. DHSS also published a Code of Practice for the service providers. The Training and Employment Agency published the Employment Code of Practice for application in Northern Ireland in December 1996. Earlier in 1996 a Northern Ireland Disability Council was established under the teitns of the 1995 Act.
3.16 The DHSS Regional Strategy for Health and Social Well-Being 1997-2002 will be the Government's primary planning document for health in the next five years. One of the objectives of the strategy is to increase equality of opportunity for people with a disability, including disabled people with dependent children.
3.17 CCRU has also initiated, as part of its "Cost of the Troubles" project, research on the needs of people who have been physically or psychologically disabled as a result of violence in Northern Ireland.

People of Different Ages

3.18 The DHSS Regional Strategy for Health and Well-Being includes a number of policies, objectives and targets specific to people in particular age ranges. Differential treatment on the basis of age is justified in responding to particular health needs. The Police Authority for Northern Ireland examined in 1996 the relationships between the police and young people. This concluded that there was a need for a degree of consultation on policing issues and the new Special Interest Committee will have future responsibility for consulting young people.

People of Differing Sexual Orientation

3.19 European case law on the interpretation of the Equal Treatment Directive (76/207) developed significantly in April 1996 with the European Court of Justice's judgement in a case concerning the dismissal of a transsexual. This judgement held that, as the Directive established the right not to be discriminated against on grounds of sex, it extended to discrimination arising from gender reassignment. The implications of this judgement for UK domestic law remain to be seen.


4.1 An important development in 1996 was the extent of interest outside Government in the implementation of PAFT and the future of the initiative. To a large extent this was stimulated by the Standing Advisory Commission on Human Rights ongoing review of employment equality. As last year's report noted, PAFT was a relevant Government policy within the scope of the review and SACHR commissioned research in 1995 on its implementation and impact. This research was carried out by Professor Bob Osborne of the University of Ulster, with Dr Anthony Gallagher, Dr Robert Cormack and Sally Shortall. Their research was conducted in co-operation with the Northern Ireland Departments and involved the identification of case studies where PAFT had been applied. The researchers presented their findings to a public seminar organised by SACHR in Spring 1996. Their full report was published in Summer 1996 as a chapter in "Policy Aspects of Employment Equality", a volume of research studies commissioned by SACHR for the Employment Equality Review. The findings of this research were, on the whole, constructively critical. It noted that the development of equality proofing in Northern Ireland had proceeded well beyond equivalent action in Great Britain. However, it also found that the priority given to the guidelines varied between Northern Ireland Departments. The research suggested that there should be greater central direction to Departments, reinforcing the role of CCRU and the lead officers' co-ordinating group. On many of these points, administrative changes have been introduced since the period when the initial research was conducted, and these have been reported on in the current and previous annual reports.
4.2 Professor Osborne and his colleagues adopted an essentially incrementalist approach to PAFT, which did not challenge the general lines of the initiative. Subsequent discussion on its future development has, however, adopted a more radical tone. Some submissions to SACHR's consultation phase on the employment equality review had suggested that PAFT should become a legislative obligation. In November 1996 the Committee on the Administration of Justice published a discussion paper by Dr Christopher McCrudden, "Mainstreaming Fairness?". Dr McCrudden proposed that PAFT should be transformed from administrative guidance on the identification and, if possible, avoidance of discriminatory impacts, to a legislative obligation to "reduce material inequality". Furthermore, all existing or future legislation should be interpreted in accordance with that obligation. Dr McCrudden also proposed greatly extending the scope of external consultation on policy issues by the public sector, involving not only the statutory equality commissions, but non-governmental organisations and interested individuals.
4.3 Shortly after publication of Dr McCrudden's paper, SACHR published a further discussion paper on PAFT, "Policy Appraisal and Fair Treatment in Northern Ireland: A Contribution to the Debate on Mainstreaming Equality" by Nigel Hutson, a researcher with the Commission. This developed further Dr McCrudden's proposal, placing yet more emphasis on external consultation and suggesting the establishment of an Equality Commission to oversee public sector application of equality proofing mechanisms. As a model for future assessments, Mr Hutson suggested the environmental impact assessment (EIA) system used in many jurisdictions. Both the Committee on the Administration of Justice and SACHR circulated these discussion papers widely and requested responses. The Government replied to both discussion papers in early 1997 with a joint commentary prepared by officials. Whilst seeking to avoid pre-empting consideration of any future recommendations made by SACHR, this commentary drew attention to the serious administrative, financial and policy implications of both Dr McCrudden's and Mr Hutson's proposals. The commentary highlighted the significant shift of emphasis from current equality initiatives to the reduction of material inequality which would be involved in Dr McCrudden's proposal. It also challenged the assumption that environmental impact assessments could provide a workable model for the appraisal of public sector policies.
4.4 Informed public debate on these issues is valuable in its own right. Accordingly, the Government recognises that Dr McCrudden and Mr Hutson have made important contributions to future thinking on the PAFT initiative. 1997 will offer the opportunity for a wide-ranging review of past experience of the initiative and the prospects for its future development. SACHR's report on employment equality will undoubtedly include recommendations on PAFT which will be given full consideration by the Government, also taking into account three years of departmental experience and the views of external commentators. The objective of any such review should be to ensure that future developments in this area both promote equality objectives and pass the test of administrative workability.

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