Age UK response to BBC announcement on new TV licences scheme
Published on 09 July 2020 01:51 PM
Caroline Abrahams, Charity Director at Age UK said: "At Age UK we're bitterly disappointed by this decision on behalf of the millions of over 75s who have had a torrid time over the last few months and for whom this must feel like another kick in the teeth, during a terrible year.
"Many older people on low incomes have told us that if they have to find £150 plus a year to pay for a licence then they will have to forego some other essential, or try to survive without TV at all. We genuinely worry about the mental health of older people living on their own in this situation if they have to give up their cherished TV - for some it really is all they have and their main way of alleviating their chronic loneliness.
"Everyone needs to understand that under the BBC's scheme many hundreds of thousands of the poorest pensioners will be facing a bill they will simply be unable to afford to pay. That's due to its flawed design - you only get a free licence if you are receiving Pension Credit but as many as 2 in 5 of all the pensioners on the lowest incomes do not receive this benefit, even though they are entitled to it."
"We know from talking to older people that many are feeling anxious and depressed, and frightened about the future - they are being told to be cautious because we are not yet 'out of the woods'. Everyone in this age group has more than enough to worry about already , particularly those who are alone, for whom their TV is more of a lifeline than ever. We regularly hear from older people who are still too afraid to go out much, if at all, and so the TV really is their window on the world.
"The BBC has taken this decision today but in reality the principal responsibility lies with the Government. Until a previous administration transferred these free licences to the Corporation under a tapering funding arrangement they had taken the form of a welfare benefit for a generation, and to have done that without any consultation left a really bad taste in the mouth. The Government cannot absolve itself of responsibility for the upset and distress being caused to many of our over-75s today, the poorest and most isolated above all. And the sadness is that these older people have already endured so much over the last few months.
"The Government needs to sit down with the BBC urgently to keep these TV licences for over-75s free."