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Our approach to measuring equality – part one

January 30, 2014

Written by Nigel Chambers

Equality is at the heart of the work that we do as a funder in Northern Ireland. It is important for us to have a robust framework to measure equality – to gain a better understanding of need and to identify gaps in our funding. We want to know what you think of our approach to measuring equality in a series of blog articles we are publishing over the next few weeks.

We have revised our approach to measuring equality and disadvantage to better understand the landscape in Northern Ireland and identify gaps in our funding. Throughout the development, delivery and review of our funding programmes we analyse external research and internal funding data to develop this understanding. However, we acknowledge that simple population data does not provide an accurate measure of disadvantage, nor do we accept that the spread of our funding should mirror the demographics of Northern Ireland. In line with our mission statement, our funding should reach those most in need. In response to these challenges, we have been influenced by an approach developed by the Equality and Human Rights Commission (EHRC): http://www.equalityhumanrights.com/key-projects/equality-measurement-framework/

What do we mean by equality?

Different ideas of equality can be distinguished by their responses to two key questions:
• equality between whom?
• equality of what?

As we developed our approach we initially considered the first question; reviewing the characteristics protected by equality legislation and the featurBlog Logoes of these characteristics. A number of these characteristics have already been set. Historically they have been a source of discrimination and presently they are enshrined in equality legislation. Age, gender, ethnicity, disability, sexual orientation and religion are characteristics that fit these criteria. Additionally in Northern Ireland, we are required to consider religion/political opinion and similar to other public bodies, we consider both under the umbrella of Community Background. We also consider as to whether the characteristic is beyond a person’s control, allowing us to think about social class. While social class is not a protected characteristic, it is the source of inequality across a range of capabilities and historically has been a source of discrimination. This approach gives us the basis of a framework to consider equality across a range of characteristics in Northern Ireland.

What are the challenges?

The main challenge to carrying out this work at national level is the availability of research across all of the characteristics. While more than adequate research exists in some fields, we have encountered a lack of research on the demographics and needs of the LGBT community and mixed research on the needs of the BME community.

Additionally, we acknowledge this approach can be limited when trying to understand the needs of a group that represent a wide spectrum of people – particularly disability. Over the coming weeks, we would like to unpack disability; how it is defined and the needs of those with differing disabilities.

We are therefore asking if our approach of categorising individuals by characteristic is too simplistic.

What next?

Over the coming weeks we intend to take a closer look at our approach to measure equality. We would like to involve our stakeholders in the development of this approach, defining the scope of our analysis and proofing of our results.

In the next part of this blog, we would like to discuss the capabilities that we measure equality across. We would like to involve our stakeholders in the development of this method, defining the scope of our analysis and proofing of our results.

Please comment below or contact us directly at nigel.chambers@biglotteryfund.org.uk or 028 9055 1440.

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