The BBC is considering removing the right to free TV licences for the over 75s. Together, we must demand the Government takes back responsibility for funding free TV licences for everyone over 75.
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.
- 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.
- Age UK 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.
Couldn't TV licences for the over 75s be means-tested?
Means-tested benefits, which take into account how much money someone has, can make a big difference to people's lives. But that doesn't mean that means-testing is right for every type of benefit. And we don't believe it's right for TV licences.
As well as being much more complicated and expensive than other options, means-testing means that the people who are most in need often miss out. Even with the best will in the world, we can't get everyone to claim the benefits they're entitled to which means many people who are most in need of a free TV licence would lose it.
The BBC would plan to means test older people for a free TV licence by giving it only to those who receive a benefit called Pension Credit. But we know that two fifths of people who are entitled to this benefit – about 1.2 million pensioners – aren't getting it. We also know that those 1.2 million pensioners are the very poorest in our society. Many simply do not know they are entitled to it, or really struggle to complete a very complex application process which requires a lot of financial and personal information. For many, there's also a real stigma attached to accepting help.
It's also important to consider the people who are just above the threshold for means-tested benefits. Many have struggled throughout their working life to save a little extra for retirement. They thought they were doing the right thing. But that small pot of savings for a rainy day means they don't qualify for those benefits. Other people might, on paper, appear to have enough money to live on, but face high costs related to things like disability and illness. For these people, age-related concessions like the free TV licence can make a huge difference.
What can we do to keep TV licences free for the over 75s?
Together, we must demand the Government takes back responsibility for keeping TV free for the oldest people in our society.