Government departments, agencies and councils take into account Section 75 of the Northern Ireland Act, which lists nine key groups that must be given consideration before any decisions are made.
Nine key groups
The following nine key groups must be given consideration prior to decisions being made:
- people with different religious belief
- people of political opinion
- people of different racial groups
- people of different ages
- people of different marital status
- people of different sexual orientation
- men and women generally
- people with a disability and people without
- people with dependants and people without
Equality of opportunity
Section 75 also promotes ‘equality of opportunity’ which means that everyone in society should be able to compete on equal terms. All government departments, agencies and councils must also give the nine key groups ‘due regard’ when creating a policy.
They do this by screening their policies to see which ones will have a negative effect on a particular group or sector of society.
However, as long as they can justify that any negative effects are necessary (with evidence or otherwise) then the policy can still be implemented. This is where the Equality Commission comes in. The Equality Commission, which is an independent public body, has the power to look into policy decisions with regard to the nine key groups identified above.
Of course, if there are lots of people complaining about the same issue then there is a far better chance of getting the policy changed. It is always best to approach official channels as a group rather than an individual.
At the start, you should talk to the relevant department or council and try to fix the problem informally. If you still do not agree with the decision, you can then use the Equality Commission to look at the matter in depth.
You need to bear in mind that any complaint can take several months to resolve. If you need information about your rights or you think you have been discriminated against on the grounds of:
- marital status
- sexual orientation
- political opinion
You can then contact the Equality Commission to get free confidential advice. On a separate note, the Commission also tries to influence policy. It focuses on how the public sector and government deliver its functions and services to ensure equality of opportunity and good relations are recognised as relevant and integral to the development process.
You can contact the Equality Commission, as follows:Equality Comminssion
7 - 9 Shaftesbury Square
- phone: 028 9050 0600
- email: email@example.com