“Employers need to rethink stereotypes of older
workers,” pensions minister Malcolm Wicks told a Local
Government Association in London yesterday.
“What extreme nonsense [it is] that there are people in
their 50s who are told by employers that they are too old, when
they will be alive for another 20 or 30 years.
“It can be as debilitating as being told you can’t
have a job because you are black, a woman or have a disability. We
are going to outlaw that discrimination next year.”
The impetus for new anti-ageism legislation comes from a
European Union employment directive, which must be implemented in
the UK by 2006.
Wicks spoke of Britain as an “ageing society”
– also the theme of a Government strategy paper due out next
month alongside the adult social care green paper.
Changing attitudes to older people went hand in hand with a
restructuring of the welfare state for the 21st century, he said,
describing it as “the key political issue facing this
“Perhaps in the past the welfare state was more often a
dependency state. We need to move it towards being an opportunity
state, to being full and active members of the local
This would also involve changing the relationship between
central and local government, Wicks added.
“We have got to move to having one unit of government
doing all the assessments, and the local community – led by
councils – doing all the interactions with people, such as
advice and advocacy.”