Ex Strictly judge Len Goodman has hit out at the idea of scrapping the free licence fee for the over 75s in Britain as he believes television is a “precious window to the modern world” for those lonely pensioners who will find themselves lost without a TV licence.
Speaking to the Daily Mirror, the 74-year-old said: “For some older people telly is their only companion. It’s what breaks the day up when they don’t see anyone and keeps them in touch with the news.
“TV provides entertainment and educational value for older people.“But it’s a much greater source of comfort and companionship to those living in loneliness and those who are housebound. For the chronically lonely TV must be a precious window to the modern world.
“So even hearing that they might have to pay for it will worry a lot of them.
“I just don’t understand why the Government can’t recognise that people who have given to this country for decades ought to be looked after. The idea of denying old people their telly is mean and whingeing.
“And many older people living on very low incomes would genuinely struggle to pay for a TV licence. An extra £154.50 a year would cause great distress. Please sign the Mirror and Age UK petition to help keep those free TV licences.”
The huge changes happening to the TV licence in 2019
It was announced yesterday that from April 2019, the TV licence is going up to £154.50, making it a £4 per year increase from last year. Back in 2017, the fee cost £10 less than this and although it’s claimed the rise is down to inflation, the number of people cancelling their TV licence has risen from 798,000 in 2016/17 to 860,000 in 2017/18.
It’s thought these people are turning off BBC channels and opting for streaming sites instead, with an estimated 9.78m Brits subscribing to Netflix, not to mention the other subscription services. The news comes as the government are deciding whether to raise the TV licence for over 75’s in 2020.
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Why huge changes could be made to the TV licence fee for over 75s
Since 2000, over 75s have been exempt from paying the TV licence fee, with these costs being covered by the government. The expected costs of the licence fee for over 75s is £745m! This scheme is due to come to an end in 2020 meaning there will be a 12 week consultation period from November to February to decide the future of this scheme. Now, charities are warning people of what the repercussions of the scheme could be.
Why Age UK believe scrapping the TV licence fee could push over 50,000 pensioners into poverty
New research from Age UK, shows that more than 50,000 UK pensioners could be pushed below the poverty line if the BBC goes ahead with proposals to scrap the free TV licence for the over-75s.
Since its introduction in 2000, the free licence has been a highly valued, universal entitlement for the over-75s which has helped millions to sustain their quality of life into late old age. With over one million older people saying that the TV is their main source of companionship, free TV access clearly provides a crucial link to the outside world for a great number of older people, particularly those who are suffering with loneliness or in poor health and housebound, with over half of all over-75s being disabled and a similar proportion having two or more serious long term health problems.
As part of its Switched Off campaign, Age UK is arguing that while this may be true for some over-75s, nearly a third of this age group are living in poverty or only just above the poverty line and so will find it difficult to pay for a licence. In total, 1.9 million older people live in poverty in the UK. Moreover, while there are significantly fewer poor pensioners today compared to the early 2000s progress in reducing pensioner poverty has stalled in the last few years and started to go into reverse.
The Charity is warning that an additional bill of £150.50 – the current cost of an annual TV licence – will undoubtedly cause great worry and distress to hundreds of thousands of vulnerable pensioners who are already struggling to get by, potentially forcing them to cut back on other essentials such as heating and food in order to remain informed, entertained, stimulated and connected to the world beyond their doorstep.
As part of its campaign, Age UK has launched a nationwide petition to save free TV licences for the over-75s. Since going live last month, support for the petition has gathered pace with well over 30,000 signatures already. Age UK is calling on all older people and their friends, neighbours, families and grandchildren to support the campaign by signing the petition to demand the Government takes back responsibility for funding free TV licences for everyone over the age of 75.
Caroline Abrahams, Age UK’s Charity Director, said: “Scrapping the free TV licence would be a real blow for many older people who already have many other challenges to contend with. Millions of older people, particularly those who are lonely or housebound with disabilities, rely on their TV as their trusted companion and window on the world, and it would be cruel indeed to undermine this in any way.
“Contrary to the stereotype suggesting that everyone in later life is well-heeled, the reality is that most are living on quite modest incomes, particularly as you go higher up the age range. People in their late seventies, eighties and nineties are less likely than younger pensioners to have a private pension, especially if they are women, and by this time in their lives they may also have spent quite a lot of any of the savings they have carefully put by. These are the people who stand to lose out if free TV licences are scrapped: many of them living alone, disabled and coping with serious health problems.
“Unfortunately the threat of pensioner poverty has not been vanquished in this country, in fact official statistics make it clear that after big advances at the start of this century progress has more recently juddered to a halt and gone into reverse. At Age UK we are deeply concerned that scrapping free TV licences will simply accentuate this trend, pushing up to 50,000 more pensioners the wrong side of the poverty line.
“We think most reasonable people would agree that it would be profoundly cynical if the Government tried to rely on a private deal made by a previous administration in 2015 to walk away from its responsibility to keep TV licences free for the over-75s. If this or any other Government wishes to make changes to any older people’s entitlements it should say so openly and have a proper public debate about it. In fact in recent weeks Ministers have said they would like the BBC to continue with free TV licences: the best way of ensuring this happens is for the Government to fund them and we very much hope they will decide to do so.”
Four ideas have been suggested for discussion
Scrap free licence fees for over 75s
This would mean all over 75s would need to pay the standard licence cost of £150.50 for a colour TV.
This idea is backed by many who believe the living conditions of over 75s in the UK has overall improved.
Replace the licence fee with a 50 per cent concession for over 75s
This would mean over 75s would have to pay half of the usual license fee cost.
Increase the age threshold
It has been suggested that the age could increase from 75 to either 77 or even 80, in order to align with other benefits such as the winter fuel allowance. It’s also argued that by the age of 80, rather than 75, most are living alone.
As with many benefits that are means tested, some believe this is a fair way to see if over 75s are eligible to have their licence fee covered for them. Some have argued a free licence fee should be granted to over 75s claiming pension credit whilst others believe anyone claiming pension credit should be eligible for a free TV license.
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