Age NI aims to change the policy discourse around equality and human rights with respect to ageing and to act as a channel to others in terms of how they perceive ageing and equality issues.
We live in a society in which negative attitudes towards ageing and later life are endemic. The effects of these attitudes are damaging to both individuals and society at large. The inequalities experienced by older people need to be addressed, not only to alleviate poverty and to improve health and wellbeing, but also to ensure full enjoyment of their human rights, to fulfil their potential as active citizens.
About Equality & Human Rights
As a concept, equality may have multiple meanings or understandings.
Equality is one facet of the enjoyment of human rights; it is the ‘principle of human rights that prevents us from being treated equally badly’. It is much more than just equal treatment for all. Prof Francesca Klug argues that “the guiding principle behind the idea of human rights is that human beings are entitled to certain protections or outcomes simply because they are human.”
The ageist attitudes deeply embedded and widespread in our society are harmful not just to the older person, but to society as a whole. Despite the damaging implications of ageism however, it is not currently afforded the same level of attention or legal protection as other forms of prejudice. This form of discrimination frequently results in unequal outcomes for older people in many areas of life such as the workplace and when accessing goods, facilities and services and even medical treatment.
The inequalities experienced by older people need to be addressed, not only to alleviate poverty and to improve health and wellbeing, but also to ensure full enjoyment of their human rights, to fulfil their potential as active citizens.
Human rights allow people to call for treatment that is not merely equal, but that is also fair and dignified. Equality applies to more than legislation; it can be argued that only through equitable treatment can older people achieve their full potential as active, engaged citizens.
Key Equality Policy Positions
70% of people aged 55-64 thought older people are discriminated against because of their age. (Millward Brown Research for Age NI, 2010)
The evidence shows a clear need to improve anti-discrimination legislation as well as ensuring that existing provision is being implemented consistently and effectively. Government also has a leadership role in promoting the capabilities of older people.
The ageing strategy, Ageing in an Inclusive Society, will allow Departments to show how they will put measures in place that will not only alleviate discrimination, but actively promote opportunities for older people to flourish.
Efficiency savings and cuts to services may be necessary in the current economic climate, but in a time of widening inequality between groups, the most vulnerable must not be left without protection. The UK Government recognises that austerity measures pose “real risks that women, ethnic minorities, disabled people and older people will be disproportionally affected.” In a time of cuts, it is more important than ever to ensure a level of fairness and a framework for prioritising need among a wide range of interests in a way that will protect those who are at greatest risk of disadvantage.
Section 75 (the statutory equality duty) requires all Departments to gather evidence of need and the review of equality schemes sets out a requirement for Departments to conduct an audit of inequalities. We believe that tools like this are useful in prioritising need in a systematic, fair and balanced way. Other tools, like international human rights standards, and the Human Rights Act, may also be usefully employed.
Age NI is calling for:
- Public Authorities audit of inequalities and action measures/ plans to be used to identify and address the range of inequalities experienced by older people
- Any cuts in policy terms to be subject to rigorous equality impact assessment to ensure that those who bear the brunt of the greatest inequality are protected.
- The immediate introduction of legislation banning discrimination on the basis of age in goods, facilities and services.