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Switched Off: Save free TV for older people

BREAKING: The BBC has announced that it will delay the roll out of the new TV licence scheme until 1 August 2020. This means all over-75s will be entitled to a free TV licence until that date.

A message from Caroline Abrahams, Age UK's Charity Director:

“We welcome the BBC’s decision to allow free TV Licences for over-75s to continue during this health emergency as a victory for common sense.

Unfortunately many over-75s will have already received a letter suggesting they get their Pension Credit letters photocopied at the local library or corner shop. This runs counter to the public health message the Government seems likely to be giving older people very soon about staying at home to reduce their risk of infection, so it’s important older people are informed that there’s no need for them to take this action for now.

While today’s decision is warmly welcomed we do question whether a delay of just 8 weeks will be anything like long enough. We will be monitoring the situation closely and continuing to liaise with Government and the BBC over this period. The aim must be to ensure that no older person is exposed to the risk of infection as a result of the introduction of a new TV Licence scheme. If the experts are right and the virus will continue to be a threat for many months to come a pause until 1 August will be a lot shorter than needed.”

The clock is ticking

From 1 August, 4 million older people will have to pay for their TV licence, but there’s still time to save it. Become an Age UK campaigner and help us fight for free TV licences.

What's happening?

For over a million of the oldest people in our country, television is their main form of company. Right now, that’s under threat.

The BBC has announced they plan to means test TV licences for the over 75s. That means they'll only be free for people receiving Pension Credit. We believe this change will harm millions of older people who rely on their TV and the most vulnerable will be forced to cut back on essentials to make end meet, or lose out on TV altogether. 

It’s time for the Government to step in and the BBC to step up to save free TV licences for over 75s.

Why means testing isn't the answer

Many people who are most in need of a free TV licence would lose it under a means-tested system. 

The most in need often miss out

Under new plans, only older people who receive a benefit called Pension Credit will receive a free TV licence. But two fifths of people who are entitled to this benefit – about 1.2 million pensioners – aren't getting it. Some don't know they can claim, many struggle to apply and lots more feel embarrassed about needing help. These people are some of the poorest in our society. 

People who are barely scraping by will suffer

Lots of older people have struggled throughout their working life to save a little extra for retirement. But that small pot of savings for a rainy day means they don't qualify for means-tested benefits. Others are coping with the costs of ill-health or disability. Taking their free TV licence away is a cruel blow. 

How will older people be affected?

Removing older people's access to TV would be an unthinkably cruel blow when many are already facing huge challenges. Quotes on this page are from real people who'd be affected by the decision. 

  • Half of all over 75s are living with a disability, and many rely on their TV for companionship and entertainment.
  • For those who don't have the internet, TV lets them stay up to date with what's happening in the world.
  • Nearly a third of over 75s are living in poverty or just above the poverty line. Paying a hefty extra bill would simply be impossible when they're barely scraping by as it is.
  • Our research shows that more than 2 million over 75s will have to go without TV or cut back on heating and food if free TV licences were scrapped.

"I have had a stroke and I am housebound. TV is my main pleasure. Don't do this to us please."

What older people are telling us

We've received thousands of responses from people across the country who are worried about losing their TV licence, or are concerned for others who may be affected.

Their words are a powerful reminder that, for many people, TV is so much more than just 'background noise'.

"In my advancing years I have to spend longer hours at home, so watching TV is not just a pastime but a necessity. TV is my "life support machine!" I am convinced it ought to be free for people on low income and particularly so for the over 75s. I do hope the proposition will be rescinded."

"I am on a small pension and if it came to a choice between food and TV, I would lose out and become isolated and alone. TV keeps me company."

Worried about the planned changes to TV licences?

To be eligible for a free TV licence under the planned changes, people will need to be claiming Pension Credit. Find out more about what this might mean for you, and check whether you're eligible to make a claim for Pension Credit.

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Last updated: Jun 26 2020

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