Age Discrimination

Ageism and age discrimination in health and social care in the UK

The Centre for Policy on Ageing carried out a series of five literature based reviews in 2007 and 2009, commissioned by the Department of Health (DH), to look for evidence of age discrimination in health and social care services in the United Kingdom, and the costs and benefits of age discrimination legislation. They are:

  • Ageism and age discrimination in secondary health care in the United Kingdom (2009)
  • Ageism and age discrimination in primary and community health care in the United Kingdom (2009)
  • Ageism and age discrimination in mental health care in the United Kingdom (2009) 
  • Ageism and age discrimination in social care in the United Kingdom (2009)
  • The likely costs and benefits of legislation to prohibit age discrimination in health, social care and mental health services and definitions of age discrimination that might be operationalised for measurement (2007)

Access the five reviews via the CPA website here

The body of work produced by CPA supports the Department of Health’s activities to root out age discrimination in the context of the European Commission Draft Directive (July 2008) proposal for an anti-discrimination directive covering goods and services to include age and the introduction in the UK Parliament of the Equality Bill (April 2009) and related secondary legislation that will set out details of the new age discrimination ban in the provision of goods and services.The CPA reviews informed the national review on age discrimination (see below) which brought together evidence from a range of sources to examine the extent to which health and social care services are differentiated by age, where people may receive less favourable treatment because of age, and where this may be unlawful and therefore constitute discrimination under the Equality Bill.

Read a CPA Briefing on discrimination in health and social care in the UK


In October 2006 the government introduced legislation outlawing age discrimination in employment and vocational training. The Employment Equality (Age) Regulations 2006 give individuals new rights not to be discriminated against because of their age, and new responsibilities to all employers and providers of vocational training.

The new Equalities and Human Rights Commission started work in October 2007. The Commission is a statutory body set up to protect, enforce and promote equality across seven areas: age, disability, gender, race, religion and belief, sexual orientation and gender reassignment. It took over the work of the Equal Opportunities Commission, the Commission for Racial Equality, and the Disability Rights Commission.

The Equality Bill, published on 27 April 2009, will make it unlawful to discriminate against someone aged 18 or over because of age when providing services or carrying out public functions. It will not affect products or services for older people where age-based treatment is justified or beneficial. The law will only stop age discrimination where it has negative or harmful consequences. The original intention was for the new law to be implemented in phases, with legislation in force in financial services and all other services, with the exception of health and social care, in 2012.

In May 2009, the government initiated a national review of the practical action that is needed to tackle age discrimination in health and social care, led by Jan Ormondroyd and Sir Ian Carruthers. The national review analysed evidence about the nature, extent and variability of age discrimination in health and social care services. It also considered what reforms are already in train to tackle age discrimination and support greater age equality. The review obtained evidence from a wide variety of sources, including academic research, stakeholder submissions, personal testimony and the conclusions of a number of workshops and engagement events.

On 22 October 2009, Jan Ormondroyd and Sir Ian Carruthers presented a report to the Secretary of State for Health, ‘Achieving Age Equality in Health and Social Care’, in which they recommended that ‘the health and social care system should implement the ban in the Equality Bill on age discrimination, harassment and victimisation at the same time as it comes into force for other sectors. The current thinking of the Government suggests that this should be in 2012 and the NHS and Local Authorities should work to the same timetable to which other sectors have already committed.’

A consultation on the national review began on 23 November 2009 and ended on 15 February 2010. The Department of Health published a Report on the Consultation on 9 March 2010, which summarises the responses received and the DH's position and proposed action. Read the Report and original consultation document here.

The Department of Health has commissioned a resource pack including audit tools and practice guides, to be available from April 2010, to assist with the elimination of ageist and discriminatory practice at local levels.

In January 2010, the Government Equalities Office (GEO) produced two policy statements relating to the Equality Bill

The GEO is requesting feedback on whether to create specific exceptions around age for health and social care within the legislation, with the request to send comments by 30 April 2010 to as noted in the policy statement. Read the Centre for Policy on Ageing's response on exceptions and related issues here.

The Equality Bill has completed the final stage of its passage through Parliament (7 April 2010), after MPs approved amendments made by the House of Lords, and will now become law.

Implementation of the Bill:
- October 2010: Main provisions.
- April 2011: The integrated public sector Equality Duty, the Socio-economic Duty and dual discrimination protection.
- 2012: The ban on age discrimination in provision of goods, facilities, services and public functions.
- 2013: Private and voluntary sector gender pay transparency regulations (if required) and political parties publishing diversity data

To read the Bill and supporting documents - click here.

For further details of policy initiatives around ageing and older people access the 'policies on ageing' page of the CPA website from the navigation bar or click here.




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