Creu Prydain Decach
15 December 2009
The Equality and Human Rights Commission with the charity Age Concern and Help the Aged will tonight present a report to Government and shadow ministers outlining recommendations for tackling disadvantage in later life.
New findings from the organisations’ 'Just Ageing?' research indicate that inequality in old age is the result of disadvantages that have accumulated during people’s lifetimes. These inequalities have an impact on people’s health, income, social support and employment throughout their lives. Inequalities add up to create huge gaps in ‘life outcomes’ in later life.
Speaking at the report’s launch event, Baroness Prosser, commissioner for the Commission, and Tom Wright, Chief Executive of Age Concern and Help the Aged, are expected to say that equality of opportunity matters at every stage of life.
Minister of State for Pensions and the Ageing Society, Angela Eagle MP, Shadow Minister for Older People Nigel Waterson MP (Conservative) and Shadow Work and Pensions Secretary Steve Webb MP (Liberal Democrat) are also speaking at the event.
The research found that education in early life is one of the strongest and most consistent influences of outcomes in old age. A person has a much higher chance of being poor or be in worse health in later life if they do not have educational qualifications, compared to people who have a high educational attainment.
It also found that spending more years in paid work in mid-life – the working years before retirement – is insufficient to protect people against poverty in later life, due to failings in the pension system. But working does seem to have a positive impact on health. Being forced into an early retirement is linked to poor health for the rest of life.
Differences in life-outcomes between the genders persist throughout life. Women live longer than men but spend more years in poor health. Women are also more likely than men to be poor when they are older. Getting married, going through divorce or being widowed all have a significant impact on people’s life chances.
The 'Just Ageing?' programme found limited evidence that public services were having an impact on inequalities in later life. Services should be able to narrow gaps but there is evidence they can widen inequalities because people from poorer backgrounds are less likely to take advantage of many health services.
The report argues that the balance between public expenditure on older people and the contribution they make to society will largely depend on the extent to which people are enabled to live longer, more active, healthier and happier lives.
The report concludes with eight key insights for tackling inequalities over people’s life-course, including: calling for policy makers to better consider the impact of increasing longevity on increasing inequality in society; moving away from policies that set different generations against each other; and long-term planning rather than playing to a short term agenda.
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For more information, to arrange an interview or to get a press pass for the seminar, please contact the Equality and Human Rights Commission press office on 020 3117 0255 or out of hours on 07767 272 818.
In 2009 the Equality and Human Rights Commission and the newly merged charity Age Concern and Help the Aged (Age UK from Spring 2010) jointly established a programme of research and policy seminars called 'Just Ageing? Fairness, equality and the life course'. The aim was to create a deeper understanding of equality over the life course and to build momentum for action on the disadvantage that accumulates across all the different stages of life and results in inequality in old age. 'Just Ageing?' considered three dimensions: inequality between different groups within the same generation of people or ‘age cohort’; intergenerational equity, or inequality between coexisting generations of people; and unequal experiences over the life course, at different life stages, for each individual.