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Last Updated: Tuesday, 25 September 2007, 14:50 GMT 15:50 UK
Anti-ageism law hits course fees
Lilian and Bruce Parkin
Mrs Parkin has signed up for lessons, without her husband
A Welsh learner claims he and other pensioners are being treated unfairly under new age discrimination laws which have doubled their course fees.

Bruce Parkin, 67, who lives near Holywell, Flintshire, refused to enrol for year two of a Poeth Cymraeg course after his fees rose to the full 50.

The charity said new laws introduced in 2006 made it an offence to offer concessions based on age alone.

The UK government said course subsidies were a matter for individual colleges.

Mr Parkin and his wife Lilian signed up for the Welsh course last year, and paid 25 each.

It's a situation which means we have lost a lot of learners
Frances Jones, Popeth Cymraeg

But when they went to enrol again last week, he said they were told they were no longer entitled to a 50% discount.

Mr Parkin said: "I don't think this was the intention when these laws were thought up.

"If what Popeth Cymraeg are saying is true, then everyone who offers concessions is going to have to stop.

"We were told that because of the new age discrimination legislation, they had to put people over 60 on the same footing as other people and therefore were not giving them any more concessions.

"They were, however, continuing to give discounts to people with Family or Pension Credits and those on Job Seeker's Allowance.

"I have searched the new legislation online and can find no mention whatsoever of concessions to pensioners, but then the anonymous petty-minded bureaucrat who dreamt it up is hiding well back in the shadows."

Mr Parkin's wife has enrolled again, but he has refused.

Hands 'tied'

Established in 1999, Popeth Cymraeg (Welsh Unlimited), is a charity which teaches the language in north east Wales.

Frances Jones, tutor organiser for Flintshire, said the course fees had not changed, but they were unable to offer discounts to pensioners purely because of their age.

She said: "It's a situation which means we have lost a lot of learners.

"I certainly know of half a dozen people just in Flintshire who would have come but now haven't.

"It's not an ideal situation and our hands are tied."

She added that Popeth Cymraeg worked in conjunction with Llandrillo College and the Welsh College of Horticulture, both of which had also implemented the new policy.

The Employment Equality (Age) Regulations 2006 came into force last year.

A spokesman for the Department for Children, Schools and Families, said: "The Employment Equality (Age) Regulations make it clear that age-related practices, such as age-related fee concessions, may be objectively justified where they are a proportionate means of achieving a legitimate aim."

He added: "The legislation does not bar colleges and providers from giving fee discounts but, if they decide to do so, the legislation requires that they should produce evidence of objective justification if called upon to do so."

A spokesman for Age Concern Cymru said the legislation was designed to allow some "positive discrimination," such as fee discounts for pensioners.

He said: "Age Concern is disappointed this has happened because the purpose of the legislation was to protect older people who are working or studying in later lives.

"It seems those enforcing the rule are not following the spirit of the legislation."




SEE ALSO
Ageism 'daily blight' for elderly
03 Sep 07 |  Northern Ireland

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