Is the UK ageist?
Ageism is prejudice or discrimination on the grounds of a person's age. According to the chief executive of Care England, Professor Martin Green, the UK is “completely and institutionally ageist”. Care England is the largest representative body for independent social care services in the UK.
“Older people don’t get the services they have a legal right to,” he said. “For example, a younger person with brain damage will have a care plan from the NHS that includes maintaining links with their family and accessing education.
Green continued: “The EHRC is ignoring the elephant in the room in such a determined way – despite me personally drawing it to their attention numerous times – that I can only assume they’re part of the problem: that they’re imbued with the same institutionalised ageism as the rest of society.
“Age is a protected characteristic under the Human Rights Act but the health and social care system is constantly discriminating against older people. Older people don’t get the services they have a legal right to. For example, a younger person with brain damage will have a care plan from the NHS that includes maintaining links with their family and accessing education.
“An older person with the same level of functionality but suffering dementia, however, will have a social care plan costing many thousands of pounds less a week, which is based entirely around getting the older person out of bed, washed and breakfasted, all in half an hour.
“God alone knows why it hasn’t been challenged in the courts in the same way that instances of racism or homophobia are. If you just flip the categories, you see how unacceptable ageism is. You hear those in the NHS say: ‘That person is too old for an operation’ but they’d never say they are ‘too black’ or ‘too gay’ for treatment.”
Janet Morrison, the chief executive of Independent Age, said: “There’s casual ageism in terms of popular culture and attitudes, and there’s institutional ageism in across every sector, industry and service that you care to mention.
“We need to start calling out ageism a lot more often. We need to challenge the stigma in the same way that it’s challenged with other protected characteristics. We need to be a great deal angrier about it than we currently are.”