Equality campaigners have warned that regulations to enforce the forthcoming ban on age discrimination must be in place by the time of the next general election to prevent reform being delayed indefinitely.
The government has pledged to ban unjustifiable age discrimination in the provision of goods, facilities and services in the Equality Bill, which is due to be published this month.
Crucial for adult care and mental health
The reform is seen as a vital step in ending long-standing inequalities for older people in adult social care and mental health.
The bill is due to become law within a year. But, with the next general election due by 3 June 2010, regulations to enforce the ban may not be in place by then.
The Conservative Party has pledged to “engage constructively” with the Equality Bill but it is unclear what its approach would be on implementing the ageism ban should it come to power.
Help the Aged/Age Concern conference
At yesterday’s inaugural conference of the charity formed from the merger of Help the Aged and Age Concern, campaigners said getting the regulations in place before the election would ensure there was a timetable for implementing the ban.
“With an election looming, the timetable should be pinned down so that, if there is an election, these things will go ahead,” said Sheila Wild, programme head, earnings and age inequalities, at the Equality and Human Rights Commission,
‘Pushed back and back’
Amanda Ariss, chief executive of equality coalition the Equality and Diversity Forum, added: “I am sure we all share the concerns that, if it is pushed back and back, we have to rely on whoever wins the next election to ensure these regulations come into force.”
Melanie Field, head of discrimination law at the Government Equalities Office, said she and fellow civil servants would be working on the regulations as the Equality Bill made its way through parliament.
Bill may not become law until April 2010
But she said the bill might not become law until April 2010, which would leave little time for regulations to be published and implemented before a June election.
The concerns followed health secretary Alan Johnson’s announcement at the conference of a review into the impact of the ageism ban on health and social care, which will report in October.