Pensions

More than a million pensioners to be affected by BBC’s decision to stop free TV licences

A million pensioners will struggle to pay their TV licence once the concession is scrapped next year, warns Age UK

More than a million pensioners will struggle to pay their TV licence once the concession is scrapped next year, a charity has warned.

The BBC will no longer be funding the TV licence for people aged over-75 from next June.

However, those claiming pension credit will still be able to claim a free TV licence.

Age UK says that many pensioners, including those who have difficulty, dressing, bathing and getting out of bed will have difficulty paying the licence or proving that they are eligible for one.

Age UK’s charity director, Caroline Abrahams describes the means-testing plan as a “slow motion car crash”.

She says, the idea that more than a million over-75s who are coping with serious health and care challenges will be able to comply with a new TV licence process, having never done so before, is cloud cuckoo land.

Age UK says that more than a quarter (29%) of over-75s in the UK have difficulty with at least one activity of daily living.

The BBC has said it will send people to help those unable to complete their new processes – an idea widely criticised as ‘threatening’ by commentators.

Age UK is calling on Boris Johnson to reverse the 2017 manifesto pledge to protect free TV licences for the over-75s until 2022.

Abrahams says that however straightforward the process it will still defeat many of them, unless they have friends and family who can help, and unfortunately a lot don’t. There will be difficulties whether an older person is entitled to a free TV licence because they are on pension credit, or not.

It is unfair to put them through this – and it is already clear that many will be deeply worried about ‘getting it wrong’ and somehow finding themselves on the wrong side of the law.

The BBC’s setting up of ‘visiting teams’ may be designed to be helpful but that’s not how most of the older people they have talked to have reacted to the idea.

Age UK says that 20% of the over-75s have difficulty dressing and 16% bathing or showering. Around 9% have difficulty getting in and out of bed, while 7% have trouble walking across a room. In addition, 672,000 people are living with dementia and a further 662,000 with severe frailty.

In 2015, the government announced it would no longer subsidise the cost of the licence fee and the BBC would have to find the funding itself, starting in 2020.

However, the Conservative manifesto in the 2017 general election promised to protect free TV licences for the over-75s until 2022.

Research from Age UK shows there has been a huge groundswell of public support for the continuation of free TV licences for the over-75s since the BBC announced it was scrapping the concession.

Around 1.5 million households that include someone over 75 claiming pension credit could still be eligible for a free licence. The BBC says evidence will be needed that one is in receipt of pension credit to claim a free TV licence.

In order to claim pension credit over-75s weekly income must be less than £167.25 if a person is single, or £255.25 if it is a couple.

Comment here