Charity fights for pensioners’ right to free TV licence

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Warning that moves to charge over 75s would criminalise them for non-payment if they couldn't afford a TV licence 

7th February 2019 by Robert Armour 0 Comments

Former prime minister Gordon Brown's call for over 75s to continue getting free TV licences is being backed by Age Scotland.   

From 2020, the UK government has said the perk will end - against warnings it will increase pensioner poverty. 

A BBC consultation on the move closes next week on 12 February.

Brown said this week that charging pensioners for their licences would potentially criminalise them and even send them to prison for non-payment. 

He added that the cost of creating a new means tested system would cost £72m - money that could go directly to pensioners. 

Campaigners insist the free licence is vital for pensioners. TV provides companionship – four out of 10 older people have reported the box is “their main company”. This is especially ­important for the half of all over-75s who live with a disability.

Brian Sloan, chief executive of Age Scotland, said: “With the state pension age increasing every year and as one of the lowest in Europe, universal benefits such as the TV licence for over 75s, which are essentially tops ups, are more crucial than ever.

"We know that about half of over 75s say that their main form of company is the TV or a pet. And with nearly seven out of 10 people over 75 not using the Internet, TV helps them stay connected. For older people who may live on their own, struggle to leave their homes due to mobility or who have limited support systems, a friendly face on the TV can brighten their day and improve their quality of life."

Many thousands of pensioners already struggle to make ends meet. Age Scotland's own research found, for example, that almost six in ten single pensioners and four in 10 pensioner couples already struggle to pay their heating bills and 38% of older people feel financial squeezed. Having another new bill to pay could put many below the poverty line or further into poverty.

Older people over 75 who may very well have paid into the system all their adult life shouldn’t have to make the choice between their TV or another utility bill, the charity said.  

Sloan added: "We believe the BBC should never have agreed responsibility for the concession, and the UK Government should do the right thing and continue to pay for this benefit as they committed to in their manifesto.”