The government will ban discrimination against older people in the provision of goods, facilities and services, the Queen’s Speech confirmed today.
Speaking at the state opening of Parliament, the Queen the outlined the government’s legislative programme over the next year. Although the number of Bills has been reduced in response to the economic crisis, the speech included the hotly anticipated Equality Bill.
The legislation will put age discrimination in the same category as discrimination on other counts, including race, gender, disability, belief and sexual orientation.
Time to adjust to ban
Organisations will be given time to adjust to the anti-discrimination laws during a transitional period, the Government Equalities Office said.
Last month, care services minister Phil Hope announced the establishment of a working group to examine how the ban should be implemented in health and social care. Hope said the group of commissioners, users and providers would take 18 months to report, prompting accusations of an unreasonable delay in implementation by Help the Aged.
Minister for women and equality Harriet Harman said that the Bill would strengthen and streamline the UK’s discrimination legislation.
Marred by prejudice
She added: “If there are unequal societies marred by prejudice and discrimination, then people feel excluded, communities feel resentful and you don’t have a society which is at ease with itself.”
As expected, the Queen’s Speech included a Children, Skills and Learning Bill to strengthen children’s trusts, including by requiring schools to co-operate in local children’s services partnerships. Local authorities will be required by law to establish multi-agency children’s trust boards to oversee the delivery of local children and young people’s plans.
There will also be a separate Child Poverty Bill, which will enshrine in law the government’s pledge to end child poverty by 2020.
New impetus on child poverty
Children’s minister Ed Balls said: “This legislation will drive action across government and with our delivery partners to give our commitment a new impetus. It will make sure we take action now to tackle the causes as well as the consequences of poverty.”
Other measures in the speech included a promise that a new Welfare Reform Bill would “provide greater support, choice and control” for disabled people. There have been concerns that proposed changes to benefits in the Bill could leave some disabled people and other groups worse off due to the increased use of conditionality in the payment of benefits.
A Citizenship, Immigration and Borders Bill was also announced. Campaigners are expecting that it will place a duty on the Border and Immigration Agency to safeguard and promote the welfare of children.
Help the Aged steps up campaign to ban age discrimination
DCSF gives go-ahead to legislation to strengthen children’s trusts