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Age Discrimination

Volume 494: debated on Thursday 25 June 2009

We recently received representations on age discrimination against children aged under 18 from organisations including Young Equals, 11 Million, the Association of School and College Leaders and the Equality and Human Rights Commission. We have also discussed the issue with children’s groups, including at the Government Equalities Office senior stakeholder group, and the Equality and Diversity Forum.

I am glad that the Minister mentions Young Equals and I am sure he has read its excellent report, “Making the case”, which details harmful age discrimination against young people, so how can the Government justify ignoring that evidence and excluding under-18s from protections in the Equality Bill?[Official Report, 29 June 2009, Vol. 495, c. 1-2MC.]

We all agree that young people deserve the best possible start in life, but the most appropriate and effective way to deliver better opportunities and services for our young people is through targeted initiatives, which is why, in January, we announced an extra 350,000 apprenticeship places, half of which we expect to go to 16 to 18-year-olds. It is also why we are investing £225 million over three years to support local communities. We need to support vulnerable young people who become homeless. Such targeted initiatives will have the greatest effect for the benefit of young people.

The Equality Bill is a great piece of legislation, but it would be even better if under-18s were included. The Young Equals campaign has been mentioned, and young people are saying powerfully that they feel discriminated against and excluded. Is there any way in which we can make them feel part of the Bill?

As my hon. Friend suggests, most of the arguments in favour of extending age provisions to under-18s seem to arise due to negative attitudes and opinions about young people and mistrust of them. It is important that that be dealt with, but attitudes alone are not the basis of discrimination under the Bill, so we would not solve the problem simply by including under-18s in its measures.