For older people the landmark Equality Bill should become a reality in 2012. Regulations banning age discrimination in products and services are due to come into force in April 2012. Age UK, older people and the age sector fought long and hard for this legislation to bring better protection for older people. However, rumours are circulating that there may be a delay to its implementation and that that key proposals may be watered down. We are currently seeking clarification from the Government on this matter.
Age discrimination is the most common form of discrimination in the UK and prejudice and disrespect is at the root of much of the disadvantage older people face. This includes abuse, neglect, second class services, social segregation and restricted opportunities.
Without the greater protection that the new law would afford, older people will continue to be discriminated against. Any departure from the April timetable could send the wrong message to business, health, social care services: that age doesn’t matter.
The harrowing accounts of the ill-treatment of older people in the recent Health Service Ombudsman’s report are a key example as to why we need to act now. Poor treatment on the basis of age is unacceptable and this report showed how important it is to give people legal backing to challenge unfair treatment.
The Government has committed to supporting anti-age discrimination laws, the Ministers responsible, Theresa May and Lynne Featherstone, have written: “We believe that implementing this provision is important. If age discrimination is wrong at work, it is equally wrong outside work. Discrimination can form a significant barrier to people’s opportunities in life, preventing greater freedom, mobility and choice.
“When older customers are turned away from the marketplace through unfair treatment, the economy misses out on increased business and revenue, and costs to the State increase as families suffer the ill effects of social exclusion. Ensuring that services can flourish which meet the needs of people of all ages and help individuals achieve their aspirations for better later lives is a very important goal.”
We hope the Government will maintain their commitment to combating age discrimination and implement these regulations on time.