Section 75 of the Northern Ireland Act 1998 (‘the Act’) requires the Department, in carrying out its functions, powers and duties, to have due regard to the need to promote equality of opportunity:
- between persons of different religious belief, political opinion, racial group, age, marital status or sexual orientation
- between men and women generally
- between persons with a disability and persons without
- between persons with dependants and persons without
Without prejudice to these obligations, the Department is also required to have regard to the desirability of promoting good relations between persons of different religious belief, political opinion or racial group.
As required by Schedule 9 of the Act the Department has set out in an Equality Scheme how it proposes to fulfill these duties.
In accordance with Schedule 9 of the Act, the Equality Commission's approval of the Equality Scheme (2012) was notified on 28 March 2012.
When a person believes that he/she has been directly affected by a failure of the Department to comply with the Equality Scheme he/she is free to make a complaint. Chapter 8 of the Equality Scheme explains the complaints procedure.
Annual Report to the Equality Commission for Northern Ireland
The Department, like all public authorities, is required to report annually to the Equality Commission for Northern Ireland on the progress made towards implementing its statutory duties.
Equality Action Plan
In the Department’s new Equality Scheme (2012) a commitment is given to the development of an Equality Action Plan (EAP).
The EAP will relate to the Department’s specific functions and aim to promote equality of opportunity and good relations by taking actions to address inequalities.
The Department carried out an initial Audit of Inequalities and consulted on a draft Equality Action Plan.
The Equality Scheme, however, indicated that the EAP would be a dynamic document and would be subject to change in light of further audit and research findings over the life of this Equality Scheme.
Disability Action Plan
Under Section 49A of the Disability Discrimination Act 1995 (DDA), amended by Article 5 of the Disability Discrimination (Northern Ireland) Order 2006, public authorities are required ,when carrying out their functions, to have due regard to the need to:-
- promote positive attitudes towards disabled people
- encourage participation by disabled people in public life
In addition, under Section 49B public authorities are required to produce a Disability Action Plan showing how they propose to fulfill these duties.
The Department consulted on the draft Disability Action Plan (January 2012 - December 2014).
Following the consultation the Department agreed that the plan would be treated as a living document and as such the Department will periodically review and update the plan during its life.
DoH Disability Plan January 2012 - December 2014 sets out how the Department proposes to fulfil these duties. The current Action Plan has been extended to March 2017.
Policies screened and EQIAs
In fulfilling its obligations under Section 75 the Department is required to equality screen all of its policies and services under consideration to determine whether they should be subject to a full equality impact assessment (EQIA).
The Department is also committed to publishing a Screening Report containing details of all Policies screened in the quarter.
Screenings prior to 2012 can be requested by contacting the Equality and Human Rights Unit