Age UK's SwitchedOff petition passes half a million
By: Age UK
Published on 15 June 2019 04:00 PM
Caroline Abrahams, Charity Director at Age UK said: “The fact that our SwitchedOff petition now has more than half a million signatures shows the strength of public feeling about the unfairness of the Government scrapping free TV licences for over-75s, and remember that about half of this age group (47%) are not themselves online. Ever since the BBC announced its decision to means test the free TV licence from June 2020 we have been inundated at Age UK with phone calls, emails and petition sign ups, to the extent that our IT has sometimes struggled to cope.
"We are going to keep the petition open and I hope we can reach at least 650,000 signatures: one for every older person on a low income who stands to lose out on the free licence that ought to be theirs, because according to official Government figures this huge number don't claim the Pension Credit which is their due, 2 in 5 of all those eligible. As a result the Government pockets £3.5 billion a year - a sum that would fund a free TV licence for every 75 year old more than four times over.
"Although it was the BBC's decision to means-test the free TV licence for over-75s, the real blame for this situation lies with the Government, which pushed the responsibility onto our national broadcaster without the money to pay for it. There is no way that the BBC can afford to keep the entitlement going, it would cost a fifth of their total budget, but as it accounts for less than 0.1% of public spending the Government can easily do so. Whoever the next Prime Minister turns out to be, we will be calling on them to step in and do right by our older population by keeping the free TV licence going - at least until 2022 when it can be considered as part of the next BBC funding settlement. If the Government wants to change it then let's have a proper public discussion about it, not the shabby behind closed doors arrangement which has led to the mess we now see. That's the least older people deserve."