Help the Aged has said the government is in danger of “breaking its promise” to ban ageism before the next election, after it emerged there would be a further delay in applying the ban to social care.
The Equality Bill, announced in this week’s Queen’s Speech, will ban “unjustifiable” age discrimination in the provision of goods, services and facilities. However, the government said there would be a transitional period before implementation, with different industries forced to comply when ready.
The ban is set to have a huge impact on mental health and adult social care. Research for the Department of Health earlier this year found it would cost each sector £2bn a year due to lower spending currently on care packages for older people compared with younger adults with equivalent needs.
Phil Hope announcement
Last month, care services minister Phil Hope announced the creation of a advisory group to examine the application of the ban to health and social care, prior to implementation, saying it would report in 18 months. Help the Aged condemned this as an unreasonable delay.
However, this week, the Department of Health said the group, which was due to start work this month, would not be established until the New Year, meaning it would not report until July 2010 at the earliest.
Help the Aged’s head of public affairs, Kate Jopling, said these “delays” would take implementation “well beyond” the next election, due by May 2010.
2005 Labour manifesto
The 2005 Labour manifesto pledged to introduce a “Single Equality Act to modernise and simplify equality legislation in the next parliament”.
Jopling said that with the rest of the Equality Bill due to be enacted within this parliament, it would be a breach of this commitment to delay the provisions on age discrimination beyond this point.
She said she understood that it would take time to figure out the full cost to public bodies arising from the legislation, but said this did not preclude the relevant regulations being placed on the statute books before that.
Fully costed and fully funded
Paul Ogden, business manager for the Local Government Association’s community wellbeing board, said that the proposals needed to be fully costed and fully funded. “Eighteen months is a long time. We don’t want it to take any longer than it has to, but need to make sure we get it right,” he added.