To further guide the roll-out of equality budgeting, an Equality Budgeting Expert Advisory Group was established, holding its first meeting in September 2018. The group has to date met on five occasions. In line with the Transparency Code it is expected that the minutes of those meetings will be available on the gov.ie website shortly. This group is comprised of a broad range of relevant stakeholders and policy experts to provide advice on the most effective way to advance equality budgeting policy and progress the initiative. The more specific role and objectives of the Group are:
- to provide constructive, critical feedback on the Equality Budgeting initiative to date;
- to provide expert guidance and informed insights on the future direction and areas of focus for Equality Budgeting, including in light of international experience, lessons from other policy areas and from academia;
- to promote a coherent, cross-government approach to Equality Budgeting, to maximise equality impacts and avoid duplication of effort across various policy areas; and
- to identify existing strengths of the Irish policy-making system which can be leveraged in support of Equality Budgeting, along with potential shortcomings that need to be addressed in this regard.
To allow for a focused assessment of each area, an Equality Budgeting framework was developed in the context of the 2020 Estimates process. Nine themes were identified, informed by various Government strategies currently guiding policy development across many different equality dimensions, including strategies for women and girls and for people with disabilities. The themes identified allow for sectorial examination and highlight areas where it is recognised that special policy action is required.
An Equality Budgeting update was included in the recently published Public Service Performance Report 2018, which makes use of the nine equality budgeting themes. While gender equality was the primary area for attention in the early stages of Equality Budgeting, work has been ongoing to broaden the scope of the initiative to include other dimensions of equality. Nine Government departments are now actively engaged with Equality Budgeting. Work is ongoing to expand Equality Budgeting across all Government departments and address further dimensions of equality. Indeed, the Department of Justice and Equality, in close collaboration with the Department of Public Expenditure and Reform, has recently invited experts from the OECD to conduct an "Equality Policy Scan" which will provide insights into how equality budgeting and equality policy mainstreaming can be further developed, including in light of best international practices.