The UK government has gone ahead with plans to implement new rules on age discrimination. From October the 1st 2012, it will be illegal for providers of goods and services to discriminate against people on the grounds of age. This will also cover public authorities such as the NHS and the local authorities.
From then on it will only be legal to give differential treatment in two situations. First where there is an “objective justification”. This might be where screening for Prostate Cancer was offered to men over 50 because they were more likely to get that disease. In other words, there has to be a good reason that is obvious to anyone who looks at this matter.
Second is where there is a “statutory exemption” created by previous law. For example, in England the law says that people over 60 should get free prescriptions. This is allowed to stay in the future.
These new rules are important for people with learning disabilities in two areas.
First some local authorities have been saying that when people with learning disabilities are over 60 they should go into care homes for older people. This will no longer be allowed. There is no objective justification for this.
Secondly in local authority charging policies for non-residential care there is no legislative underpinning for differential charging between those over and under 60. Currently those over 60 get much more generous personal income disregards. This is a purely local decision based on voluntary guidance from COSLA which local councils are under no obligation to follow.
As a result, it is likely that current charging regimes will have to change dramatically and it may lead to people with learning disabilities getting to keep more of their money before they start paying charges.