Gender Equality Strategy cross-departmental working group - terms of reference

The Department for Communities (DfC) will establish a Gender Equality Strategy Cross-Departmental Working Group (the Working Group). The Working Group will support DfC in the development and drafting of a new Gender Equality Strategy and action plan which is evidence-based and targeted to address objective need.

Role and Purpose of the Working Group

The Working Group is being established to:

  • work in partnership with DfC in the production of a Cross-Departmental Gender Equality Strategy and action plan based on the recommendations of the Expert Advisory Panel and the views expressed by the Strategy Co-Design Group and through wider stakeholder engagement;
  • share with DfC any information, evidence or research held by Departments which may be relevant to development of the Gender Equality Strategy;
  • work with DfC to ensure that the Gender Equality Strategy is a cohesive document (not just a collection of separate initiatives) that targets the key issues that need to be addressed;
  • contribute meaningful, targeted and measureable actions to the Gender Equality Strategy which include year on year milestones that can be included in the Strategy’s action plan;
  • ensure that the Gender Equality Strategy actions contributed by Departments appropriately address the gaps in provision highlighted by the Expert Advisory Panel, Strategy Co-Design Group and through wider stakeholder engagement;
  • support DfC in the production of an evidence-based Strategy which is based on objective need and appropriately aligned to Programme for Government outcomes and takes account of international obligations;
  • assist DfC in assessing the feasibility and affordability of delivering the Strategy actions recommended by the Expert Advisory Panel and Co-design Group and take appropriate steps to ensure that Departmental resources are directed towards the priority areas which need to be addressed by the Gender Equality Strategy; and
  • work with DfC to achieve Cross-Departmental commitment to delivering on Departments’ assigned Strategy actions, supported by robust monitoring and reporting mechanisms that demonstrate the difference made by actions and in which all contributing Departments are signed up to participate.

The Working Group will have a partnership role in the development and delivery of the Strategy. However, 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, Executive and Assembly agreement.

Scope and priorities

The Working Group’s role will be to support and partner with DfC in the development and delivery of a Cross-Departmental Strategy and action plan.  The Working Group’s remit is to focus on gender equality issues affecting NI as a whole, and that are within the competence of the Assembly. 

The Working Group will be project managed by DfC.  Its work programme will be agreed at the first meeting and kept under review for the duration of its work.

Membership and appointments

Membership of the Working Group will be made up of all NICS Departments which have been identified as having within their remit potential actions which should be contributed to the Strategy.  Departments will be approached to participate in the Working Group based on the recommendations of the Gender Equality Strategy Expert Advisory Panel and Strategy Co-Design Group, as well as the research and knowledge of the DfC policy team tasked with developing the Strategy.

Departments will be asked to nominate one or more relevant officials to participate in the Working Group, based on their responsibilities and functions that are relevant to the subject matter of the Strategy.  Nominations will be requested at G7 or above. 

Nominees will be required to commit to participating in the Working Group until a final Strategy has been published.  The timescale for this is anticipated to be approximately 12 months, as the target date for publication of the final Gender Equality Strategy is December 2021.  Members may be replaced if they cease to be responsible for the work area they have been nominated to represent on the Working Group.

It is expected that members of the Working Group will have the authority, or be able to obtain the agreement of relevant senior officials, and where appropriate, Ministers, to make commitments on behalf of their Department in respect of its contribution to the Strategy in terms of overall content, actions that are being contributed and the allocation of the necessary resources to deliver on their Department’s commitments within the Strategy.

Members will be required to attend Working Group meetings which will be convened regularly throughout the development of the Strategy and respond to co-ordination exercises seeking relevant actions from Departments.  Frequency of meetings will be considered as development of the Strategy progresses, but will initially be convened on a monthly basis.  Members may also be called upon to answer email queries and attend additional meetings on an ad hoc basis. 

The Working Group will be chaired by DfC.

Administrative Support

Administrative support to the Working Group will be provided by the relevant DfC policy team.  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 also arrange for the Working Group or selected members to meet with the Gender Equality Strategy Co-Design 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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