Disability Strategy co-design group - terms of reference

The Department for Communities (DfC) will establish a Disability Strategy Co-Design Group (the Group). The Group will advise DfC on the development and drafting of a new Disability Strategy which is evidence-based and targeted to address objective need. The Group will provide an advisory role.

Role and Purpose of the Group

The Group is being established to:

  • help DfC to understand the experience of, and issues faced by, people with disabilities for whom the Strategy will deliver;
  • ensure the lived experiences of people are appropriately reflected in the Strategy, obtain the views of relevant stakeholder groups on its content and themes, consider urban/rural implications, provide feedback on these to DfC and ensure these views are appropriately reflected in the Strategy prior to DfC issuing it for public consultation;
  • work alongside DfC to ensure that the draft Strategy addresses the themes, content, key actions and gaps in provision that have been identified by the Expert Advisory Panel and wider stakeholder engagement;
  • throughout development of the Strategy, maintain focus on addressing the themes and biggest issues affecting disabled people in NI;
  • support DfC in the production of an evidence-based Strategy and action plan which is outcomes-based, appropriately aligned to Programme for Government and takes account of international obligations including UNCRPD and, in particular, UNCRPD General Comment No.7;
  • constructively challenge DfC throughout the development of the Strategy and action plan, and prompt all NICS departments contributing Strategy actions to target resources at the priority areas which need to be addressed; and
  • assist DfC in developing detailed proposals for the establishment of robust monitoring and reporting mechanisms with meaningful involvement from representatives of the sections of society at which the Strategy is targeted.

The Group will have a key role in the co-design and development of the Strategy.  Final decisions on the content of the Strategy and the actions associated with it will be the responsibility of DfC and the Minister for Communities, prior to the draft Strategy being presented for public consultation and Executive agreement.

Scope and priorities

The Group’s role will be to support and advise DfC in the development and drafting of a cross-departmental Strategy and supporting action plan.  The Group’s remit is to focus on pan-disability issues affecting NI as a whole, and that are within the competence of the Assembly. 

The Group’s work programme will be agreed with DfC immediately following its appointment and kept under review for the duration of its work.

Membership and appointments

The Group will have 14 members.  Each member will be required to commit to participating in the Group until a final Strategy has been published.  The timescale for this is anticipated to be approximately 15 months.

Members will be required to attend Group meetings which will be convened monthly, and may also be called upon to answer email queries and attend additional meetings on an ad hoc basis.  Members of the Group will be required to engage with individuals who have lived experience of the issues the Disability Strategy will address and may additionally be asked to attend relevant events.

Membership of the Group will be drawn from organisations with a presence in NI that represent the breadth of work in the sector and have strong connections across the range of stakeholders whose views will need to be reflected in the Strategy.  Organisations will be asked to nominate one representative of management grade to participate in the Group until a final strategy is published.  Representatives may be replaced if they cease to be employed by their organisation.

The Group will be chaired jointly by a representative from DfC and one other member of the Group.  The Group will be asked to nominate and agree the co-chairperson at its first meeting.

Attendance at meetings may be in person or virtual/via telephone.  Reasonable accommodation will be taken into account when making arrangements for all meetings of the Group.

Membership of the Group is voluntary and unpaid.  Members may be able to recover any reasonable expenses incurred for travel, subsistence, support and assistance at the discretion of DfC, in accordance with relevant NICS rates and guidance.

Conduct and Confidentiality

Group members will be asked to declare any conflicts of interest, and must adhere to the Seven Principles of Public Life and GDPR obligations.

Group members may be given access to information not yet in the public domain or which is policy under development.  This information must not be shared outside the Group, including in the press or on social media, without prior written permission from DfC.  This applies both during and after the Group’s term of appointment.

Membership of the Group may be revoked by DfC if a member is found to have disclosed information inappropriately or failed to uphold the Seven Principles of Public Life.

Administrative Support

The Group’s work will be supported by the relevant DfC policy team and, where appropriate, the Department’s Professional Services Unit.  Support provided by DfC may include, but is not limited to, organising meetings, taking minutes, maintaining records in accordance with legislative requirements (GDPR) and general administrative support.

DfC will arrange for the Group to meet with the Expert Advisory Panel to discuss the Panel’s recommendations prior to finalisation and presentation to the Minister.

DfC will also arrange for the Group to meet with the Cross-departmental Working Group at appropriate times, to discuss the content and actions put forward by departments for inclusion in the Strategy and action plan.

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