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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."

-- Ends --

Notes to editors

[1] An ‘older household’ for the purposes of the BEIS fuel poverty figures being used in the press release is defined as ‘a household where the oldest person is aged 60 or over’.

[1] Age UK calculation: Based on the End Fuel Poverty Coalition’s fuel poverty projections (available here: http://www.endfuelpoverty.org.uk/price-cap-methodology/) combined with BEIS statistics on the proportion of fuel poor households where the oldest person is aged 60+ (available here: https://www.gov.uk/government/collections/fuel-poverty-statistics#2019-statistics).   

[1] Ibid

[1] BEIS, 2021. Annual Fuel Poverty Statistics in England, 2021 (2019 data). Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy: https://www.gov.uk/government/statistics/fuel-poverty-detailed-tables-2021. [Accessed 03/11/21]. LILEE data, table 22.  

[1] https://www.gov.uk/cold-weather-payment

[1] https://www.gov.uk/the-warm-home-discount-scheme

[1] DWP (29 October 2020). Income-related benefits: estimates of take-up 2018-19: https://www.gov.uk/government/collections/income-related-benefits-estimates-of-take-up--2  

[1] 25,681 people in total have told Age UK that they are worried about their energy bills. The time frame for campaigners saying they’re worried about bills is 21st Oct – 14th November 2021.

[1] To date, 6,536 Age UK campaigners have written to their MP to raise their concerns about energy issues. The timeframe for the MP action is Thursday 18th – Wednesday 24th  November 2021.

For more information

Contact the Age UK Media team on 020 3033 1430 (out of hours: 07071 243 243).

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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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Last updated: Nov 26 2021

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