In November 2018 Age UK launched the Switched Off campaign, designed to protect the free TV licence for people aged over 75. As part of this campaign, Age UK launched a petition which has now reached over 500,000 signatures. Meanwhile, public consultation response forms were sent to all local Age UKs and Age UK shops, which allowed Age UK to deliver over 6000 responses to the BBC in February. Since then Age UK has been urging supporters to write to their MP to protect the licence – an initiative supported by many celebrity campaigners.
Unfortunately this wasn’t enough. Last week, the BBC has announced their plans to means test the TV licence for the over 75s. From June 2020, only those who are claiming Pension Credit will be able to claim the concession.
This means that 3.7 million older people in the UK are set to lose a benefit which has been granted to them since 2000.
When mobility issues mean you struggle to get out and about, the TV helps you stay connected. When money is a constant worry, it’s a way to escape. And when you spend your days alone, it gives you something to rely on, something to look forward to.
For over a million of the oldest people in our society, TV is their main form of company. It’s not just ‘the box in the corner’, it’s a window to the world, and a human voice when they’ve not spoken to another person in days.
For some of the most vulnerable people in our society, TV is a lifeline. And now, it’s going to be taken away.
However, we know this isn’t the BBC’s fault. In 2015, the Government quietly pushed the job of providing free TV licences to the BBC – without giving them the funding to do the job properly, or asking us, the public, whether this was right.
Together, the Age UK network and organisations across the country who represent older people, are demanding the Government takes back responsibility for keeping TV free for the over 75s. Because it’s not just a licence. It’s a lifeline.
Who loses when free TV licences are scrapped?
It’s a common misconception that all older people are comfortably off these days. In fact nearly a third of over 75s are living in poverty or just above the poverty line. For them, paying a hefty extra bill would simply be impossible when they’re barely scraping by as it is.
Added to this, half of over 75s are living with a disability. Many of them rely on their TV for companionship and entertainment. And for those who don’t have the internet – a considerable proportion of the oldest in our society – TV enables them stay up to date with what’s happening in the world.
Removing access to the free TV licence for the over 75s would be a cruel blow to those who need it most, when they’re already facing such huge challenges.
Why is means testing a bad thing?
Means testing may sound fair but in reality, it means at least 650,000 of our poorest pensioners are facing a big new annual bill they simply can’t afford. Under the new system, only those who are claiming Pension Credit will be entitled to the free licence. However, we know that an estimated 1.2 million older people (over 65) who are eligible for Pension Credit do not claim. Currently there are 650,000 people over 75 are eligible but do not receive Pension Credit. This may be because they do not know about Pension Credit or because they are to embarrassed to apply. With the rising cost of care, many older people in our society are only just about coping, so an additional expense of £154.50 a year will cause much anxiety and distress.
Sign the petition to save the free TV licence
That’s why the Age UK network believes it’s the Government’s responsibility to look after vulnerable older people. Keeping TV free for them is a simple but vital way to do this.
We’re petitioning the Government to take back responsibility for providing the free TV licence to those over 75. We need as many signatures as possible to make our case and show how important this issue is.
Add your name today at: ageuk.org.uk/tvpetition
Because it’s not just a licence. It’s a lifeline.