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Age law reform

for children & young people

What you need to know


Why do children and young people need protection against age discrimination?

There is compelling evidence that children and young people experience age discrimination when accessing a range of services including health and social care, financial services and general day to day services.

Evidence includes:

Health and social care

Children and young people with mental health issues experience difficulties in accessing age appropriate health and social care services and often receive poorer services compared to other age groups - for instance concerns have been raised about the lack of preventative two tier mental services for deaf children in comparison to the two services for deaf adults.

Negative stereotypes and prejudicial attitudes

This legislation can help challenge negative stereotypes and prejudicial attitudes, as well as harassment and ageist behaviour towards children and young people by service providers and others. In 2010 the Ark Young Life and Times Survey revealed that 83% of young people believed that they were judged negatively just because they were young. For example, as a result of stereotypical negative attitudes towards young people as anti-social trouble makers, their access to services is sometimes denied or restricted.

Financial services

Young people frequently pay excessively high premiums for car insurance or are unable to get insurance at all because of their age.  We consider that where financial service providers seek to justify a higher price for reasons of risk connected to age, that they need to produce evidence to establish that risk and expose it to public scrutiny.


Age is the very factor that makes children and young people more vulnerable than adults. They therefore require special protective measures; rather than no protection from age discrimination when accessing services.

Government commitments

Inclusion of children and young people in the legislation is in line with current government commitments such as the OFMDFM Strategy for Children and Young People, the NI Executive’s Delivering Social Change Framework and Together: Building a United Community Strategy. It is also consistent with the UK Government’s obligations under international human rights conventions. In particular, excluding children and young people from the scope of the legislation would be a breach of the general principle of equal treatment.

Promoting a diverse customer base

Improving access to services for children and young people will help promote a more diverse customer base and the potential for increased business and revenue, as well as ensuring a better match of need with resources. It will mean that service providers, public bodies and others will proactively examine whether the restriction of services to children and young people of certain ages is justifiable.

Addressing concerns about age law reform

‘It will have the unintended effect of diluting or undermining protections for children and young people and result in the removal of age-based services’

  • The prohibition on age discrimination is not a blanket ban – different treatment would be allowed where justifiable. This would include health care screening for teenagers and hearing tests and vaccinations for infants.

‘Service providers would be subject to litigation if they refused to sell goods, such as alcohol, which could only be sold to adults’

  • We recommend an exception that allows differential treatment on grounds of age where the law allows or requires businesses to restrict access to goods to people of certain ages or to ask for proof of age; for example, to allow businesses selling age-restricted goods, such as alcohol, fireworks, cigarettes etc., to continue to ask for proof of age where a customer appears to be younger than a particular age, for example 18.


‘It will result in excessive litigation’

  • Based on our own experience of dealing with discrimination complaints and the experience of other countries that have implemented similar legislation, for example, Australia, Canada and Belgium, we are of the view that the coverage of children and young people is unlikely to result in excessive litigation.


‘The legislation will require extensive exceptions which will make it unworkable’

  • Discrimination legislation often contains exceptions and this has not rendered the legislation unworkable.  Australia, Canada and Belgium have made suitable exceptions to their legislation without encountering drafting difficulties or creating any undesirable or unintended consequences.


‘Certain concessions for children, such as ‘children-go–free’ holidays would not be permitted’
  • Concessions for children and young people, as well as older people, which have clear social policy objectives, including ‘children-go–free’ holidays, free bus passes for the over 60s and reduced entrance fees for children and young people at leisure centres, are all likely to be lawful.
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