There are over 188 different nationalities and many different ethnic groups living in Ireland. As such Ireland is a diverse and multi-ethnic society.

An ethnic group is a social group of people who identify with each other based on common ancestral, cultural, social, or national experience. Membership of an ethnic group tends to be associated with shared culture, religion and or traditions.

It is acknowledged that people from minority ethnic backgrounds may be at risk of poverty and social exclusion. Members of all such groups may also experience racism and discrimination, which in turn leads to social isolation. These circumstances, coupled with language and cultural barriers, may further compromise their ability to access services and indeed their financial well-being.

The introduction of the equality legislation in Ireland provides for a human rights and equality framework and places an obligation on service providers to ensure that they are accessible to and accommodate and meet the needs of all potential users. Ethnic Monitoring is one way to fulfil this obligation.

Ethnic monitoring involves collecting, storing and analysing data relating to different ethnic groups who are using a specific service

This information is then used to ensure that the service being offered can reasonably accommodate the different needs of users based on their specific needs. Data can also be used to examine if there are target groups who are not being reached and strategies can be put in place to address this.

Ethnic monitoring benefits the whole community as it enables the service provider to identify trends and issues that are emerging in relation to specific groups and enables the services to adapt and respond to the specific needs of new and well established minority communities. Ethnic monitoring is key to ensuring that the target group and their specific needs are central to the service.

However, it is vital that all stakeholders are clear as to why ethnic monitoring is taking place

There needs to be a definitive policy in place. Training and support must be given to staff to ensure that they are comfortable with introducing such a data collection system. The client must also be assured that they are anonymised within the process whereby information is used only to improve their experience and ensure a better service for all.

A reporting mechanism that anonymises the data and makes it available for use in reports would need to be defined. Part of this work should include baseline work on the presence of different ethnic groups in the catchment area so there is a mechanism to measure trends against this baseline.

Ethnic monitoring can help ensure greater equality and inclusion in both services and society as a whole.

Published: 02 June 2014