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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."

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Last updated: May 11 2022

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Notes to editors:

[i] Older households are defined as households with at least one person aged 60 or over.

[ii] 2022-23

[iii]Age UK analysis of Living Cost & Food Survey 2019-20. Figures projected to 2022. Spending patterns are assumed to be the same as those in 2019-20. Prices of items are changed in line with ONS inflation output figures for the years to 2021-22, and then by 9-10% to the year 2022-23 for all items except for energy that are increased by the rise in the energy price cap of 54% in April 2022 and an assumed rise of 40% in October 2022. Household income are changed in line with output data (to 2021-22) and then forecast figures (to 2021-22) and then 3.1% for households whose main source of income is benefits and 4.42% for other households (to 2022-23). 

[iv] By poorest older households we are referring to those older households with the lowest household income after-tax (i.e. those in the lowest income decile).

[v] Age UK analysis of Living Cost & Food Survey 2019-20. Figures projected to 2022. Spending patterns are assumed to be the same as those in 2019-20. Prices of items are changed in line with ONS inflation output figures for the years to 2021-22, and then by 9-10% to the year 2022-23 for all items except for energy that are increased by the rise in the energy price cap of 54% in April 2022 and an assumed rise of 40% in October 2022. Household income are changed in line with output data (to 2021-22) and then forecast figures (to 2021-22) and then 3.1% for households whose main source of income is benefits and 4.42% for other households (to 2022-23). 

[vi] Office for National Statistics (ONS) 2022. Coronavirus and the social impacts on Great Britain: Household finances. Datasets: 19 November 2021 to 1 April 2022. Available at: https://www.ons.gov.uk/peoplepopulationandcommunity/healthandsocialcare/healthandwellbeing/datasets/coronavirusandthesocialimpactsongreatbritainhouseholdfinances.

[vii] Those in receipt of Pension Credit, which can be backdated for three months and tops up the weekly income of a single pensioner to £182.60 or a pensioner couple to £278.70, (or higher in some circumstances) could also be entitled to the following:

  • A Cold Weather Payment of £25, paid automatically when the average temperature is 0°C or below over seven consecutive days
  • £140 off electricity bill thorough the Warm Home Discount Scheme, if eligible
  • A free TV licence (if also over-75)
  • Free NHS dental treatment and help towards the cost of glasses and travel to hospital
  • Help with Council Tax
  • Help with rent
  • Cheaper phone and home broadband deals
  • Reduced water bills
  • An extra amount of Pension Credit for some carers worth up to £37.70 a week.

For more information

Contact the Age UK Media team on 020 3033 1430 during office hours (Mon-Fri 08:30-17:30) or for out-of-hours media support please email media@ageuk.org.uk 

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Age UK

We work with our national partners, Age Scotland, Age Cymru and Age NI and our local Age UK partners in England (together the Age UK Family). We also work internationally for people in later life as a member of the DEC and with our sister charity Help Age International.

Age UK believes that everyone should have the opportunity to make the most of later life, whatever their circumstances. We provide free information, advice and support to over six million people; commercial products and services to over one million customers; and research and campaign on the issues that matter to people in later life. Our work focuses on five key areas: money matters, health and well-being, home and care, work and training and leisure and lifestyle.

Age UK is a charitable company limited by guarantee and registered in England (registered charity number 1128267 and company number 6825798). Age Concern England and Help the Aged (both registered charities), and their trading and other associated companies merged on the 1st April 2009. Together they have formed the Age UK Group ("we"). Charitable services are offered through Age UK and commercial products are offered by the Charity's trading companies, which donate their net profits to Age UK (the Charity).

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