TV licence fee: 'The most vulnerable people in our society will suffer,' says Scarborough Age UK CEO

We are issuing a rallying call to our Government to reinstate the free TV licences for over-75s.

Thursday, 20th June 2019, 3:58 pm
The BBC has scrapped the government-funded free over-75 TV Licence scheme

The decision to slash free TV licences for more than three million pensioners has been widely criticised, and was described by Wakefield MP Mary Creagh as a “ruthless welfare cut”.

The Scarborough News, with our sister titles across the North, is calling on the government to work with the BBC and reassure over-75s that they will still be entitled to free TV.

Julie Macey-Hewitt, Chief Executive Officer at Age UK Scarborough and District, has described it as 'not just a licence but a lifeline.'

More than 8,500 households in our borough will lose their access to free TV licences under the new plans.

She added: "Losing the TV licence means the most vulnerable people in our society will suffer. Half of our over 75s are living with a disability, and rely on TV for companionship and entertainment. It keeps them integrated in society and knowing what is going on in the world.

"Using Pension Credits as a means of testing for a free TV licence is unfair and unjust.

"We know there are a high number of our over 75s who are eligible for Pension Credits but do not claim them, they will, therefore, miss out twice. For those in poverty this is a step too far, paying this extra hefty bill would be impossible; leaving them more isolated and lonely than before.

"Age UK Scarborough & District believe that the TV licence should be free for the oldest people in our society. It is not just a licence, it is a lifeline.

"You can sign a petition online at www.ageuk.org.uk/tvpetition or call into our offices on Aberdeen Walk."

Last week, the BBC announced that the government funded, free over-75 TV Licence scheme would be replaced next year.

From Monday, June 1, 2020, free TV licences will be means tested, and only households where one person receives pension credit will qualify.

Up to 3.7 million pensioners who have received a free licence in the past will now be expected to pay more than £150 a year for access to TV.

The decision has drawn criticism from the public, and more than 550,000 people have signed a petition, started by Age UK, calling on the government to reinstate the licence.

In Scarborough and Whitby, there are 8,050 households with someone over 75 who qualifies for a free TV licence; 3,120 households would lose free TV licence eligibility if the age threshold was raised to 80, and 5,950 households would lose eligibility if the benefit was linked to Pension Credit.

Your News is calling on the government to reinstate the free TV licence for all over-75s.

For the older population, many of whom cannot leave home, or do not have anyone to spend time with, TV is more than just background noise.

According to the Campaign to End Loneliness, almost half of pensioners rely on their TV as their main source of companionship.

Caroline Abrahams, Charity Director at Age UK, said: “Make no mistake, if this scheme goes ahead we are going to see sick and disabled people in their eighties and nineties who are completely dependent on their cherished TV for companionship and news, forced to give it up.

“Means-testing may sound fair but in reality it means at least 650,000 of our poorest pensioners facing a big new annual bill they simply can’t afford, because though eligible for Pension Credit they don’t actually get it. In the end this is the Government’s fault, not the BBC’s, and it is open to a new Prime Minister to intervene and save the day.”