Definitions and legalframework

Key messages

Lady in wheel chair

The Equality Act introduces, for the first time in UK law, a legal definition of age discrimination in relation to the provision of services.

This section provides information about the legal framework behind the Act as well as definitions of what is meant by ‘age discrimination’ and ‘age equality’. It also includes guidance to help local teams develop a shared understanding of the issues.

Also see:

Practice guides

The comprehensive practice guides that form part of the ‘Achieving age equality resource pack’ also provide further detail and guidance.

NHS practice guide
Social care practice guide

  • Age equality “means ensuring that all individuals (irrespective of their age) have the opportunity to live in the way they choose, according to their values; that their different needs, situations and goals are recognised and respected; and that they are treated equally with fairness, dignity and respect”, (Help The Aged, 2007).
  • Equality does not mean treating everyone the same but is about ensuring that people are treated fairly and equitably according to their needs. Advancing equality is closely linked with protecting and enhancing human rights.
  • Age discrimination is the less favourable treatment of one person relative to another because of their age.
  • The Equality Act will ensure that different treatments of people, based on their age, are permitted where this can be “objectively justified” or there is a specific exception defined in law, for example the exemption from prescription charges for people 60 and over.

We need to be developing and maintaining services which eliminate discrimination, advance equality of opportunity and foster age equality. To do this effectively, it is vital to have a clear understanding of age discrimination and equality.