The time is now right for a UN convention on the rights of older persons

-2934This week in New York City, older people, government representatives, human rights organisations and NGOs from around the world, will meet for the 9th time to discuss the human rights of older people. More specifically, the purpose of this meeting is to consider whether it is time for the international community to have a Convention on the rights of older persons.

Continue reading “The time is now right for a UN convention on the rights of older persons”

Tackling witchcraft accusations in Tanzania

Tanzanian womanThis blog post is from Natalie Idehen, Communications Manager at Age UK. Natalie is undertaking a three-month secondment with HelpAge Tanzania.

In Tanzania between 2005 and 2011, approximately 500 older people were murdered due to suspicions that they were witches. Worryingly, these numbers are increasing.

Continue reading “Tackling witchcraft accusations in Tanzania”

A denial of dignity

Older woman with carer

The European Court has ruled on a challenge brought by Elaine McDonald, a user of social care services in Kensington and Chelsea, regarding reductions to her care package which amounted to a denial of dignity. This ruling is the final stage in a series of cases that have included the UK Appeal Court and Supreme Court. Age UK intervened in the Supreme Court case.

At the heart of the dispute is the issue of whether someone who is not incontinent should be expected to wear incontinence pads rather than being assisted to use the toilet at night. Ms McDonald has argued that being required to do this is a breach of her human rights.

UK courts, including the Supreme Court, accepted that Kensington and Chelsea’s decision to remove night time care was unlawful in English law as it was implemented without carrying out a proper reassessment of need. However UK courts have not accepted that this involved a breach of human rights, or that the council acted unlawfully in withdrawing care once (a year after the initial decision) it finally completed an assessment. Continue reading “A denial of dignity”

Calling on the Government to protect older people’s human rights

Age UK handing in a petition to the Department of HealthYesterday morning, Age UK handed its petition into the Department of Health, calling on the Government to close a loophole that means some older people receiving care are not directly covered by the Human Rights Act because of the way their care is arranged and paid for.

It’s an absurd situation. Two people living in the same care home could have different rights and protections because of this loophole. That means that when abuse and neglect takes place, some people have fewer options for redress. We think this is wrong.

Continue reading “Calling on the Government to protect older people’s human rights”

Equal access to services

Unlikely as it sounds, a recent 153 page legal decision about VAT returns could  prove to be a turning point in the campaign to get recognition of the needs of many older people when it comes to using online services.

In what’s being hailed as a significant  and closely watched decision,  a judge has upheld the right of three small business owners not to file their VAT returns on line. Two of those who brought the court case have disabilities. The other lives in a remote part of the country without reliable broadband access.200x160_hand-uses-mouse

In her ruling, the judge said it is a breach of the human rights act to require VAT forms to be filed online without exemption for older people, those with disabilities or who live in isolated parts of the country.

For Age UK, the decision is very welcome. Equal access to services not just for older people but everyone, has long been one of our core campaigning goals. Continue reading “Equal access to services”

Why we need a convention on the rights of older people

This blog was contributed by Chris Roles, Director of Age International.

The world is undergoing a demographic revolution. We are currently witnessing the dividends of improving health care and living standards in fast rising longevity across the globe.

Chris Roles, Director of Age International
Chris Roles, Director of Age International

The number of older people over 60 years old is expected to increase from about 600 million in 2000 to 2 billion by 2050. This change will be most dramatic in developing world countries where the number of older people is expected to triple during the next 40 years.

But as often happens with demographic change, social attitudes and legal protection lag behind, with policy makers scrambling to keep up with the transforming landscape. Continue reading “Why we need a convention on the rights of older people”

Ban on Age Discrimination

This blog was contributed by Alison Fenney, Age UK’s Equalities and Human Rights Policy Adviser.

Age discrimination is the most common form of discrimination in the UK and Age UK has campaigned long and hard for legislation to deal with this.  The Government’s recent announcement that the ban on age discrimination in the provision of goods and services (with the exception of financial services), will finally come into force on October 1 2012, is therefore very welcome news.

We hope this legislation will herald a sea change in society’s view of older people, a view too often characterised by an emphasis on biological decline and economic burden ignoring the contribution offered by older people in employment, volunteering and in  caring for partners, children and other family members. 

The most positive aspect of this legislation is the impact it will have in health and social care services. For example, in cancer care we know that age is a key factor in determining survival, in part because older people are currently under treated and experience poorer outcomes as a result. The Department of Health itself acknowledges that older people currently receive worse outcomes in treatment of cancer as the result of age discrimination.

We are also expecting to see changes in mental health services which frequently discriminate against older people not offering them access to the range of services available to younger adults despite having the same need.

However the legislation is not an unmitigated cause for celebration. The wide exception that has been granted to the financial services industry is very disappointing. This exception means that older people can for example still be discriminated against when trying to obtain insurance or banking services purely on the basis of their age.

We accept providers of risk-related services should be able to use age to assess risk and decide price provided that they can supply evidence that they are doing so in a way that is proportionate to risk. However we do not feel that the exception will ensure that this condition is met. We know that ageism in financial services causes worry and distress for many older people, limiting their choices and increasing costs. We will therefore continue to press for financial services to be subject to the ban and urge the Government to keep the impact of this exception under close scrutiny.

Overall the legislation is very welcome, requiring those providing services to consider their practices and policies in relation to older people. However by itself, it will not be sufficient to change negative attitudes towards ageing.  Ultimately we need to learn how to value older people better, appreciating their talents and not just seeing a date on a passport. The ban on age discrimination is a welcome step towards this.

Age UK is pressing to ensure goods, services and job opportunities are accessible to people of all ages and from all communities. Find out more about our equalities and human rights work.

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