Discrimination against older people is a serious problem that must be tackled at the highest levels, Harriet Harman, Minister for Women and Equality said today.
The increase in the number of well, older people demands a change in public policy. We must recognise the emergence of the “wellderly” and the role that well, elderly people play in their families, in the economy and in society.
The idea that someone is “past it” when they reach 65, denying people insurance cover simply because of their age, and endemic ageism towards women in the media are all outdated attitudes that need to be consigned to history, the Minister told an Age Concern / Help The Aged conference in central London.
Speaking at the Age UK event, Harriet Harman said:
"We still have to challenge the old-fashioned notion that defines you through your importance to the world of work, and that when you no longer work sees you as ‘past it’. We still have more to do to tackle the attitude that once you reach 60 you are just treading water until you become frail and dependent.
"This is important not just for those individuals concerned but for the economy as a whole. We have to banish the ageism in the workplace that costs an estimated to cost the economy up to £31 billion per year due to lost GDP.
"Ageism against older women in the media is also serious problem. While the broadcast media finds it possible to value the older man as having experience and wisdom they don’t seem to be able to value the older woman in the same way.
"Older people are the last remaining group that society deems it acceptable to discriminate against. This is a problem that we are determined to tackle at the higest level, which is why our Equality Bill reinforces this Government’s commitment to ending age discrimination wherever it arises."
The Equality Bill, which enters committee stage in the House of Lords today, will strengthen the law when it comes to older people and those who look after them by:
· Providing new legal protection from discrimination to those at work because they are caring for an older member of their family;
· By placing a legal obligation on public bodies, such as planning authorities, to protect and promote the needs of older people when planning their services;
· And by banning age discrimination in the provision of goods and services so that older people are not unfairly disadvantaged in things such as travel insurance and loans.
NOTES FOR EDITORS
· The Government Equalities Office is responsible for the Government’s overall strategy, legislation, and priorities on equality issues. The Office also has direct responsibility for policy on gender equality, sexual orientation, and for integrating work on race. The Prime Minister announced the establishment of the Government Equalities Office (GEO) in July 2007 and it became a Department in its own right in October 2007. It works to Ministers Harriet Harman, Maria Eagle, Vera Baird and Michael Foster.
· The ban on age discrimination will not affect cases where services benefit older people, for example allowing an insurance company to only offer travel insurance to the over-50s, or the Government’s successful and popular policy of providing free bus passes to people aged 60 and above.
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