Age rights laws to exclude children
Children and young people will be excluded from protection against age discrimination under new government proposals, the Children's Commissioner Koulla Yiasouma said.
The OFMDFM has launched a consultation on ending discrimination for the provision of goods, facilities and services.
Ms Yiasouma said she was disappointed.
"It just doesn't make sense to propose that we end age discrimination and yet discriminate against children in the process.
"To discriminate against any person or group of people in our society cannot be right. But to exclude the most vulnerable and those who have less opportunity to make their voices heard is fundamentally wrong.
"Government is, in effect, telling our children they don't matter and that people are free to continue to legally discriminate against them because of their age."
She said expert evidence showed there was no legal reason why children and young people of all ages shouldn't be included in and protected by this legislation.
"Here at NICCY (Northern Ireland Commissioner for Children and Young People), we have seen time and time again parents having to fight for their children's rights to goods, facilities and services such as those in education and health.
"This proposed legislation could have protected their children's rights not to be discriminated against because of their age, but it has failed to do that."
The consultation document sets out policy proposals to protect adults and young people aged 16 years and over from discrimination on the basis of age in relation to goods, facilities and services, charities, premises, education, public functions, and private clubs and associations.
The scope of the proposals is broader than goods, facilities and services alone, OFMDFM said.
The consultation will run for 14 weeks until 8 October.
An OFMDFM spokesman said the proposals aimed to protect all people aged 16 and over from harmful or unjustifiable age discrimination when accessing goods, facilities or services.
"We recognise there will be some disappointment those aged under 16 are not included at this stage; however, our proposals to extend protection to those aged 16 and 17 represent a significant improvement on the age discrimination legislation which is currently in place in both Great Britain and Ireland, where under-18s are excluded from protection.
"The proposals are a first step to ensure that legislation is brought forward as soon as possible to protect people over the age of 16 from unfair and unjustifiable age discrimination.
"Those responding to the consultation document are encouraged to express their views on our policy proposals.
"In the meantime, we will continue to work with a wide range of people within the children and young people's sector to address issues affecting children under the age of 16."