Miriam Margolyes backs Age UK's Switched Off campaign
Published on 16 March 2020 12:00 AM
With the clock ticking and now just #75days to go until free TV licences are set to be scrapped for all over-75s,[i] award-winning actress Miriam Margolyes has spoken out in support of Age UK’s #SwitchedOff campaign, calling on the Government to make sure these licences stay free.
Miriam Margolyes OBE, actress and Age UK ambassador, said: “It is horrible to feel lonely and miss out on everyday contact with the ones you love. But that is the heart-breaking reality for so many older people who over the years have come to rely on their TV for company as well as entertainment and information. There's lots of discussion at the moment about the future of the BBC, and its licence fee, but let’s not forget that in the here and now hundreds of thousands of vulnerable older people are facing the loss of their free licence, risking their ability to watch the programmes they love. The BBC and the Government have to find a way forward that puts older people’s fears to rest and allows their TV licences to stay free.”
Age UK and Miriam Margolyes have joined forces to call on the Government to step in and right the wrongs of the earlier administration that handed over responsibility for free TV licences to the BBC back in 2015. Swift intervention from the Government to ensure the continuation of free licences for ALL over-75s would help millions of vulnerable older people – those struggling on a low fixed income as well as many who are battling loneliness, ill health and disabilities – who will be hard hit by the imminent scrapping of this benefit.
The Charity says recent news of an increase to the TV licence fee[ii] and the Government launching a public consultation on whether TV licence fee evasion should be decriminalised[iii] has done nothing to make the position better for the over-75s who face losing their licences from 1st June 2020.
Since its introduction in 2000, the free licence has been a highly valued universal entitlement for our oldest citizens. For many older people across the UK, the television is their main form of companionship and an important way to stave off chronic loneliness, yet this risks being lost to them if they no longer qualify for a free licence and cannot afford to buy one. Research for the Charity found that half of all over-75s say they watch TV for more than four hours a day[iv] and in many older people’s homes the TV goes on when they get up and off only when they go to bed, if it goes off at all.
Age UK also believes that the BBC’s current plan of means testing the free TV licences so that only those who can prove they are on Pension Credit will continue to receive it will cause hardship and injustice among the oldest people in our society who are living just above the pension credit line on low incomes. In addition, since it is well known that two in five of all the older people entitled to Pension Credit do not claim it[v], the BBC’s plan means it is certain that hundreds of thousands of very poor older people will not be protected from having to pay for a licence, as they are supposed to be through the new scheme.
Caroline Abrahams, Charity Director at Age UK said: “We are delighted that Miriam Margolyes is getting behind our #SwitchedOff campaign. In recent weeks there has been a vigorous debate in the media about how to fund the BBC in the future, but let’s remember that within a much shorter timescale the over-75 free TV licence is set to disappear, with serious consequences for many older people. It’s great that Miriam is helping to draw attention to their plight and we sincerely hope that the Government and the BBC listen and respond. Time may be short but it is not too late for these free TV licences to be saved if the political will is there to do so.”
The Charity and thousands of its campaigners are still waiting for a response from the Prime Minister, seven months after handing in a petition to No. 10 – with over 630,000 signatures – calling on the Government to save free TV licences for ALL over-75s. Now Age UK is urging campaigners to write to or tweet the Prime Minister to request an answer. For more information go to: www.ageuk.org.uk/switchedoff.
[i] Under current BBC plans, only those 75+ claiming Pension Credit will get a free TV licence from June 2020. The current cost of a colour TV licence is £154.50, rising to £157.50 from 1st April 2020.
[ii] As above. The licence fee will rise by £3 to £157.50 in April.
[iv] 56 per cent of over-75s: F2F Omnibus study aged 65+ by Kantar (Feb 2019)
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Notes to editors
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).