Disability Strategy expert advisory panel - terms of reference

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

Role and Purpose of the Panel

The Panel is being established to:

  • help DfC to understand the experience of, and issues faced by, people with disabilities for whom the Strategy will deliver, and advise DfC on appropriate methods of stakeholder engagement in the development of the Strategy;
  • analyse available evidence from the external research community and academia to present to DfC a baseline position to inform development of the Disability Strategy;
  • make evidence-based recommendations to the Minister on the scope of a new Disability Strategy, the time period it should cover, and the themes, content and key actions that should be included within it;
  • make recommendations on the gaps in provision across all NICS departments that should be addressed by a new Disability Strategy;
  • ensure that the recommended themes and actions for a new Disability Strategy are aligned to the Programme for Government and informed by the relevant international obligations;
  • present clear recommendations for the use of the Disability Strategy Co-Design Group and DfC in developing and drafting the Disability Strategy and Disability Strategy Action Plan.  These recommendations will have been discussed and agreed with the Co-Design Group prior to finalisation.  The recommendations will be published following their presentation to the Minister for Communities; and
  • advise DfC on the monitoring and reporting framework that should be established to ensure effective implementation of the Disability Strategy.

The Panel will have an advisory role in setting direction for the development of the new Disability Strategy and making recommendations on its themes and content.  Final decisions on the content of the Disability Strategy and the actions associated with it will be the responsibility of DfC and the Minister for Communities prior to the draft Disability Strategy being presented for public consultation and Executive agreement.

Scope and priorities

The Panel’s role will be to advise DfC and the Disability Strategy Co-Design Group on the priorities and themes upon which a cross-departmental Disability Strategy and supporting action plan should be developed.  The Panel’s remit is to focus on pan-disability issues affecting NI as a whole, and that are within the competence of the Assembly. 

The Panel’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 Panel will have four members.  Each member will be required to dedicate ten full working days to the project, with a view to presenting the Panel’s recommendations to the Minister for Communities within 12 weeks of the date of appointment.  Panel members may also be called upon in later stages of the Disability Strategy’s development, on an ad hoc basis.

Panel members will be selected based on their relevant knowledge and expertise.  They will have a range of expertise in, and an in-depth knowledge of, issues relevant to the development of the Disability Strategy.

At least one Panel member will be from the disability voluntary and community sector and at least one member will be drawn from a relevant academic discipline.

There will be no hierarchy of Panel members. 

Conduct and Confidentiality

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

Panel 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 Panel, including in the press or on social media, without prior written permission from DfC.  This applies both during and after the Panel’s term of appointment.

Membership of the Panel 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.

Expenses and Remuneration

Panel members will be paid a fee of £250 per day.  Members will also be able to recover any reasonable expenses incurred for travel and subsistence at the discretion of DfC, in accordance with relevant NICS rates and guidance.

Administrative Support

The Panel’s work will be supported by DfC Disability Policy Branch and, where appropriate, the Department’s Professional Services Unit.  Support provided by DfC may include, but is not limited to, providing statistical information and economic analysis, organising meetings, taking minutes, maintaining records in accordance with legislative requirements (GDPR) and general administrative support.

DfC will also arrange for the Panel to meet with the Disability Strategy Co-Design Group to discuss its recommendations prior to finalisation and presentation to the Minister.

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