Request to Equality Commission for Northern Ireland (ECNI) for a ‘Paragraph 11’ Investigation into the Department of Social Development (DSD) in relation to failure to abide by its Equality Scheme in relation to the strategic Housing Strategy policy
This is a request that the ECNI use its paragraph 11 powers under Schedule 9 of the Northern Ireland Act 1998 to investigate procedural breaches of the DSD equality scheme for failure to carry out screening and equality impact assessment of strategic housing policy centred around its ‘Facing the Future: Housing Strategy for Northern Ireland 2012-2017’ policy. The most significant section of the DSD equality scheme which has been breached is paragraph 3.1 which states:
Any proposed policies which emerge during the lifetime of the Scheme will be screened against the four criteria in paragraph 3.2 and those identified as having significant implications for equality of opportunity following such a review will be subject to a full impact assessment.
This has not happened with either ‘Facing the Future’ or key individual policies emerging from it. The timing of this request is related to:
- DSD recently confirming to CAJ that the ‘Facing the Future’ Housing Strategy will not be reissued and hence that it is sticking to the position in the draft consultation document that the Housing Strategy will not be screened;
- DSD is regardless taking forward an Action Plan on the strategic policy without screening or EQIA’s being conducted on collective or individual elements;
- It becoming increasingly apparent decisions are already being taken and there is a concerted movement away from approaches to promote equality of opportunity within key elements of strategic housing policy with enormous impacts on s75 groups in the short as well as medium term;
- It is also increasingly apparent that there is a cumulative effect leading to DSD attempting to bypass the application of its section 75 obligations in any meaningful manner in relation to strategic housing reform;
This request for a paragraph 11 investigation is issued in the context that CAJ is unlikely to satisfy the ‘directly affected’ requirement for complaints under the DSD equality scheme itself and any subsequent paragraph 10 complaint to the ECNI.