Help the Aged has attacked an “18-month delay” in implementing a ban on age discrimination in health and social care, following a ministerial statement on the issue this week.
The Equality Bill due in the 2008-9 parliamentary session will ban ageism in the provision of goods and services, however the government announced in July there would be a transitional period before the ban came into force in health and social care.
Government-commissioned research earlier this year found a ban on age discrimination in England could cost £2bn a year each in social care and mental health, because of reduced access to certain services for older people and lower spending on care packages for over-65s for similar levels of need.
This week care services minister Phil Hope said an advisory group of commissioners, providers, users and carers would be set up to identify where discrimination may occur, suggest action the Department of Health could take to eliminate it and consider the costs and benefits of age differentiation in particular services.
He said the government was committed to banning “unjustifiable age discrimination”, which would allow age differentiation in services where this was beneficial. However, the advisory group would also consider possible exceptions to a ban on unjustifiable age discrimination.
Hope said there would be sub-groups for particular areas and added that mental health and social care could start work on implementation plans before other areas of healthcare.
However, he said that the advisory group’s work would take 18 months to complete.
Help the Aged head of public affairs Kate Jopling described the announcement as “bitterly disappointing”. She said: “For older people, this delay means at least another 18 months sitting in doctors’ surgeries and hospitals, risking being denied medical treatment, purely because of their age.”
She added: “The government must reconsider this timetable and introduce the regulations for health and social care without delay. Older people cannot and should not have to wait a second longer to be treated as equals.”
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