Speaking in Stormont, East Londonderry MLA Claire Sugden commented on the proposals for a change in Age Discrimination laws.
Miss Sugden said:
“Last Monday I hosted an information session to discuss proposals to radically changed Age Discrimination Legislation in Northern Ireland.
Northern Ireland is the only part of the UK where it is not unlawful to discriminate on the grounds of age outside of employment and training. Proposed legislation will introduce protections for those over 16 in the areas of goods, facilities and services. What does this mean? Currently you can be treated unfairly when purchasing travel insurance, for example, simply because you are older and will often pay more. Less obvious examples include retailers assuming older people are incapable of signing a contract without a younger person to explain the detail.
Regrettably these types of discrimination happen daily across NI, so this legislation effects many people directly. Owing to its importance, I have negotiated a week long extension to the original consultation deadline of 8 October, so more of my constituents can put forward their views.
Of course there are occasions where positive discrimination is necessary to protect certain groups. Senior Smart Passes, for example, allow older people discounted public transport. Healthcare initiatives targeted at older people are necessary to meet specific needs. I want to protect these entitlements for older people, so putting forward your views will help get the legislation right.
The current impasse at Stormont is stalling Age Discrimination Legislation being passed through the NI Assembly. At this stage in order to become law before the May 2016 election, it will require accelerated passage. If we do not pass this legislation by the end of March 2016, we are likely to live with age discrimination in Northern Ireland for a number of years to come.
As MLAs our primary role is to make laws on behalf of and for the better of the people of Northern Ireland. While politics currently seems stagnant at Stormont, it is still business as usual for those of us still doing our job. We are creating and shaping legislation that will benefit Northern Ireland.
Please read the proposals and submit your views. My office will provide you with information and assist you in your response. Contact us on 028 7032 7294 or call in to 1 Upper Abbey Street, Coleraine.”