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Equality and Equity Branch
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The Central Community Relations Unit (CCRU) is responsible for a number of initiatives to ensure that all sections of the community enjoy equality of opportunity and equity of treatment.
Targeting Social Need
Targeting Social Need is an initiative through which the Government aims to improve social and economic conditions by targeting resources on Northern Ireland's most disadvantaged areas and people, Protestant and Catholic. In the White Paper 'Partnership for Equality', published on 11 March 1998, Government set out plans for a more effective New TSN initiative, combined with measures to Promote Social Inclusion in Northern Ireland. On 28 July 1998, Government launched the publication, NewTSN, An Agenda for targeting social need and promoting social inclusion in Northern Ireland.
NewTSN will continue to be based on objective need, but with a particular focus on measures to combat unemployment and enhance employability. Other Government Departmental programmes will target people and areas in need and key inequalities such as health, housing and education.
The Government proposes to establish, under the umbrella of NewTSN, a Northern Ireland initiative, Promoting Social Inclusion, similar to recent social exclusion initiatives in England, Scotland and Wales. This will promote cross-departmental boundaries, where multi-dimensional action is required. An announcement on this initiative was made on 16 June 1999.
Vision Into Practice: The first New TSN Annual Report, 1999 was published in November 1999.
The 'Vision into Practice' report included for consultation draft New TSN Action Plans. The consultation period was extended to 28 February 2000. Guidance on how consultation responses could be submitted were provided in Chapter 6 of the Report. A press release on the end of the consultation on draft Action Plans was published on 29 February 2000.
Policy Appraisal and Fair Treatment (PAFT)
The White Paper 'Partnership for Equality' put forward proposals for consultation to replace the existing PAFT guidelines, which were introduced on 1 January 1994, with a new statutory framework. The proposals would place a statutory obligation on public bodies (including District Councils and United Kingdom Departments operating in Northern Ireland) to ensure that, consistent with their own responsibilities, their functions are carried out with due regard to the need to promote equality of opportunity those areas covered by the current PAFT guidelines.
In order to oversee this obligation, Government also proposed that a new Equality Commission be established which would take over the functions exercised by the Fair Employment Commission, the Equal Opportunities Commission, the Commission for Racial Equality (NI) and the Disability Council.
Following detailed consideration of the responses received during the period of consultation, on 10 July 1998, the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland Dr. Marjorie Mowlam, announced her intention to proceed with the proposed statutory requirement on the public sector to promote equality of opportunity and with the proposal for a unified Equality Commission.
The Equality Commission will have new responsibilities relating to the statutory obligation including aspects of equality such as age, having dependents, marital status and sexual orientation which are not covered by the current anti-discrimination law.
Forthcoming legislation will empower the Equality Commission to establish consultative councils on particular aspects of equality, so maintaining close links with non-governmental organisations in these fields.
Irish Language and the Council of Europe Charter on Minority Languages
CCRU also has responsibility for policy development in relation to the Irish Language and seeks to recognise and respect the special significance of the Irish Language, to encourage interest in it, and appreciation of it, to highlight the contribution which it has made to the cultural heritage of the whole community and to respond positively, where practical, to soundly based requests for assistance for Irish Language projects.
Tá dualgas ar an Láraonad um Caidreamh Idirphobail
(CCRU) fosta i dtaca le forbairt polasaí maidir leis an
Ghaeilge agus an suntas ar leith a bhaineann leis an teanga a aithint. Is mian leis an CCRU, dá bhrí sin, meas agus tuiscint a chothú ar an teanga i measc an phobail, aird
a tharraingt ar thábhacht na Gaeilge d'oidhreacht
chultúrtha gach cuid den phobal, agus tacú, más
féidir, le haon tionscadal fiúntach atá dírithe
ar leas na teanga.
The Good Friday Agreement committed all participants to respect, understanding and tolerance in relation to linguistic diversity in Northern Ireland. Specifically, the British Government undertook certain commitments in relation to the Irish language. On 4 June 1998 the Government
announced its intention to sign the Council of Europe Charter for Regional or Minority Languages. The Irish language will initially attract the protection of Part II of the Charter, which closely mirrors the general provisions of the section on Irish in the Good Friday Agreement. The Government has also stated its intention to specify Irish for the more specific provisions of Part III of the Charter at an early date. A Minority Languages Branch is being established within CCRU and among its early tasks will be the identification of action which needs to be taken to meet Part III requirements.
Employment Equality Review
The CCRU has been co-ordinating the Government's response to the wide-ranging review of the Fair Employment (Northern Ireland) Act 1989 carried out by the Standing Advisory Committee on Human Rights (SACHR). In response to the review the Government published a White Paper Partnership for Equality on 11 March 1998, which set out future policies on promoting fair employment and equality of opportunity in Northern Ireland. Views were invited by 12 June 1998 on a number issues where Government had not yet made final decisions, or where there were detailed matters to be decided, consequent on decisions in principle. Over 120 responses were received.
Taking into account responses received during the consultation period Government announced on 10 July its decision:
In amalgamating these bodies Government will seek to ensure that the ethos of the current bodies and the advances they have made are protected within the new framework, and that all dimensions of equality are given due attention in the new Commission's work. (see further detail under Policy Appraisal and Fair Treatment section).
- to place a statutory obligation on the public sector to promote equality
of opportunity and;
- to create a unified Equality Commission, bringing together the four
current statutory bodies.
Of the other areas covered by the White Paper, some involve new policies introduced by the government on a UK-wide basis, e.g. New Deal and education reforms, others will be introduced administratively without the need for legislation, notably New Targeting Social Need/Promoting Social Inclusion and a number will require changes to legislation.
The Equality and Equity Branch of the CCRU has produced or commissioned a range
of reports and publications.