The Equality and Human Rights Commission welcomes the ban on age discrimination in services which comes into force today in England, Wales and Scotland.

Evidence gathered by the Commission shows how many older people suffer ill-treatment and discrimination due to their age. Many older people told the Commission that care workers treated them badly, based on stereotypes around their age, rather than as individuals.

This includes not receiving support to allow them to take part in local community activities; support which was available to younger people. In another case, an 84-year-old man waiting for an urgent operation claimed he was told that he’d been put at the bottom of a six-month waiting list and that any cancellations would go to a younger person.

The 2010 Equality Act, makes it unlawful for any organisation providing a private or public service to discriminate against, harass or victimise an adult because of their age, and covers younger as well as older adults.

Members and guests of clubs and associations and anyone at the receiving end of ‘public functions’ such as tax collection will also be protected.

The ban is not absolute. Age-differentiated treatment will be allowed if it is covered by one of the exceptions introduced into the Equality Act. If no exception applies, service providers may be able to show that it’s ‘objectively justifiable’ to treat people differently because of their age.

John Wadham, General Counsel at the Equality and Human Rights Commission, said:

“The new ban on age discrimination in services is a significant change in the law; one that the Commission has always supported.

“Most types of beneficial age-based treatment can still continue and many businesses won’t need to change their practices. However, everyone should be aware of the fact that the ban has now come into effect.

“Over the next few months, the Commission will be publishing guidance and working with businesses, public bodies and individuals to explain the new regulations.”