Sexual Orientation Strategy co-design group - terms of reference

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

Role and Purpose of the Co-Design Group

The Co-Design Group is being established to:

  • help DfC to understand the experience of, and issues faced by, people in relation to their sexual orientation or gender identity 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 people in NI in relation to sexual orientation or gender identity;
  • 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;
  • 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 Co-Design 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 Co-Design 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 Co-Design Group’s remit is to focus on issues affecting people in relation to sexual orientation or gender identity in NI as a whole, and that are within the competence of the Assembly. 

The Co-Design 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

Whilst membership is still being finalised, it is expected that the Group will have upwards of 14 members.  Each member will be required to commit to participating in the Group until a final Strategy has been published.  The Strategy is due to be launched by 31 December 2021.

Members will be required to attend Co-Design 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 Co-Design Group may additionally be asked to attend relevant events.

Membership of the Co-Design 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 Co-Design Group until a final strategy is published.  Representatives may be replaced if they cease to be employed by their organisation.

The Co-Design Group will be chaired jointly by a representative from DfC and one other member of the Co-Design Group.  The Co-Design 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.

Membership of the Co-Design Group is voluntary and unpaid.  Members may 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.

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

Membership of the Co-Design 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 Co-Design Group’s work will be supported by DfC’s LGBT 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 Co-Design Group to meet with the Sexual Orientation Expert Advisory Panel to discuss the Panel’s recommendations prior to finalisation and presentation to the Minister.

DfC will also arrange for the Co-Design Group to meet with the Sexual Orientation 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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