396. Deputy Holly Cairns asked the Minister for Justice the way in which her Department and agencies under her remit are working towards enabling access to employment for persons from minority and or disadvantaged communities, including, but not limited to, persons with disabilities, persons from ethnic minorities, Travellers, Mincéirí; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [32743/21]


Minister for Justice (Deputy Heather Humphreys): My Department and the agencies under its remit are committed to ensuring a safe, fair and inclusive Ireland, where regardless of ethnicity or background, every person is treated and valued equally.
As the Deputy may be aware, Part 5 of the Disability Act 2005 provides for a statutory report on the employment of people with disabilities in the public sector.
The Department’s 2020 report indicated that 5.1% of employees in my Department and the agencies under my remit reported having a disability. This exceeds the 3% target of employment of persons with disabilities set in the Disability Act 2005.
The Department is currently working with members of the Traveller and Roma Community to launch an internship programme for members of their community later this year. This internship programme was developed in line with the National Traveller and Roma Community Inclusion Strategy (2017 – 2021) and aims to promote the participation and inclusion of the Traveller and Roma community in Irish society.
This year the Department will roll out Disability and Autism Awareness training to all staff in line with the National Disability Inclusion Strategy 2017-2121.
My Department takes part in the Willing Able Mentoring (WAM) programme; an initiative of the Association for Higher Education Access and Disability (AHEAD), which offers a six-month paid mentored work experience placement to graduates with disabilities. There are currently two graduates with disabilities on WAM placements.
The Courts Service
The Courts Service understands and takes seriously its statutory duty to eliminate discrimination, promote equality and protect the human rights of all staff and service users.
A Human Rights and Equality Working Group has been established, which works to assess and identify the human rights and equality issues that are relevant to the functions of the Courts. The group meets weekly to identify the policies and practices that are already in place, and to determine those that should be implemented across the organisation in a bid to address any inequality.
The Courts Service is strongly committed to meeting the requirements set out under the Civil Service Code of Practice for the Employment of People with Disabilities.
Its 2020 Staff Disability Census indicated that 5.5% of current staff reported having a disability. This is on target to meet the Government increase to the public service employment target for persons with disabilities from a minimum of 3% to 6% by 2024.
Irish Prison Service
The Irish Prison Service is exempt from the Public Sector Employment disability target in respect of Recruit Prison Officers but is committed to enabling access to employment for persons from minority and disadvantaged backgrounds.
The Probation Service
One of the key organisations funded by the Probation Service is the Irish Association for Social Inclusion Opportunities (IASIO).
The largest of IASIO's programmes, Linkage is a training, employment and guidance service, which supports offenders to integrate into the working community.
Legal Aid Board
The Legal Aid Board reports that 6% of staff reported having a disability in 2020.
Legal Services Regulatory Authority
The Legal Services Regulatory Authority (LSRA) is working to increase the public sector employment target of persons with disabilities from 3% to 6% by 2024, and will embed this target into all LSRA workforce planning and recruitment policies.
Garda Síochána Ombudsman Commission
All open recruitment to posts in the Garda Síochána Ombudsman Commission (GSOC) is conducted by the Public Appointments Service (PAS) which operates an Equality, Diversity and Inclusion (ED&I) Strategy, which recognises and values the importance of attracting and welcoming a workforce that is responsive, accessible, resilient, and reflective of the communities it serves.
This strategy is in line with the Vision, Mission and Values stated in GSOC’s Statement of Strategy for the period 2021-2023. Based on these principles, GSOC will continue to work with PAS towards ensuring that persons from minority and disadvantaged communities are encouraged to apply for suitable employment opportunities as they arise in the organisation.
International Protection Appeals Tribunal
Since January 2020 the tribunal has facilitated two internships under the Willing and Able Mentoring Programme. These six-month placements are for graduates who have a disability.
An Garda Síochána
An Garda Síochána’s Equality, Diversity and Inclusion Strategy 2020-2021 outlines its commitment to 'attract, develop and retain a diverse workforce to support delivery of an effective policing service to the communities they serve'.
The EDI Strategy contains a number of specific actions to support An Garda Síochána to fulfil this goal including Action 5; 'Support the development of a diversity recruitment roadmap'.
In January 2021 a consultative exercise was completed by eight civil society organisations and serving personnel with diverse backgrounds within AGS. There was positive engagement, and constructive feedback was provided on the recruitment and retention barriers encountered by members of various disadvantaged and minority communities.
A draft implementation plan outlining short and medium terms initiatives to address the barriers identified has been developed. In addition to these initiatives, this implementation plan includes:
- Recruitment targets for groups currently under-represented within An Garda Síochána based on current baselines and national census data.
- A commitment to improve equality data collection and analysis at each phase of the recruitment journey, in partnership with the Public Appointment Service.
- A commitment to review international norms and best practices in police vetting procedures (a highly complex barrier identified during the consultation requiring a more long-term approach).
Implementation of this plan is scheduled to happen in advance of the 2021 Garda Trainee Competition.
Over 500 young people in socio-economically disadvantaged areas applied to the upcoming Garda Access Programme. The successful candidates will be placed in suitable roles across the organisation for nine and eleven month paid placements. The interns will also benefit from a bespoke training and development programme, which aims to develop their knowledge of policing and the criminal justice sector, and to increase key workplace skills.
Shortlisting is currently underway with interviews anticipated to be held the week beginning 28/06/21.
Policing Authority
The Policing Authority is an equal opportunity employer, it conducts competitions in a fair and inclusive manner in line with the CPSA Code of Practice, and facilitates all reasonable accommodations necessary for staff who may have additional requirements.
The Authority is very aware of its commitments in this regard and despite its small numbers, exceeds the 3% target for employment of persons with disabilities.