Help the Aged today stepped up its campaign to outlaw age discrimination with a survey showing 53% of adults thought the government treated older people like “second-class citizens”.
The poll came with the government expected to decide within weeks whether to include a ban on age discrimination in the provision of goods and services in an Equality Bill in this year’s Queen’s Speech.
Help the Aged’s survey of 1,000 adults found 81% already thought age discrimination was against the law, yet it is only banned in relation to employment. Discrimination in the provision of goods, services and facilities is already banned on grounds of disability, gender, race, religion or belief and sexual orientation.
The charity argued that older people would be less inclined to vote for a government that had failed to outlaw age discrimination.
Challenge to Gordon Brown
Director of policy and external relations Paul Cann said: “It wasn’t too long ago that Gordon Brown in his conference speech promised he would deliver an end to discrimination on the basis of race, gender, sexuality, age or faith. Yet rampant ageism is rife in the UK and is still perfectly legal. The prime minister must stay true to his word and ban ageism completely.”
Charities including Help the Aged have long argued that age discrimination persists in social care, pointing to the much greater costs of care packages for younger disabled people as opposed to older people. However, councils have argued that such differences reflect need.
Annie Hudson, director of adult social services at Bristol Council and inclusivity lead for the Association of Directors of Adult Social Services, said directors were “fully supportive of initiatives that will drive equality of outcomes for older people”.
But she said the impact on council resources needed to be considered before legislation was pursued, adding: “Local authorities need a better understanding of what the costs and benefits of any new age discrimination legislation might be.”
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