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TV licence fee for over-75s will be a shock to budgets

Written by: Paloma Kubiak
The free TV licence for the majority of over-75s will be scrapped in June with the most vulnerable pensioners hit the hardest, a charity warns.

Last year the BBC announced it would end free TV licences for all over-75s unless they’re in receipt of Pension Credit. This is due to take effect in June this year and comes after the government handed responsibility of the benefit to the BBC in June 2015.

Charity Age UK has warned that the cost of funding their own licences may be too much for many pensioners, adding that it will be the most vulnerable older people who are impacted the most.

Given the £154.50 cost per year, this will be a shock to budgets for older people who can barely afford their regular utility bills.

Age UK said these households already spend an average £46 a month on electricity, £43 a month for gas and £28 a month on water. Therefore the cost of the licence is the equivalent of over three monthly gas/ electricity bills or over five monthly water bills.

The charity is urging the government to step in ahead of the June date and continue the free licence for over-75s, not just the small number who claim Pension Credit.

It said that with millions of older people missing out on Pension Credit and other means-tested benefits every year, the move will only serve to exclude some of the very poorest and oldest pensioners from watching TV at all.

The groups at greatest risk of missing out include the 2.2 million over-75s living with a limiting long-standing illness  – meaning in many cases they are largely confined to home – and two million over-75s living alone.

For many older people their TV is so much more than ‘the box in the corner of the room’ with half of all over-75s watching TV for more than four hours a day while for many, the TV goes on when they get up and off only when they go to bed.

Caroline Abrahams, Age UK’s charity director, said: “There are only 130 days to go now before the free TV licence for all over-75s is due to be scrapped under the BBC’s plan, so it’s more important than ever the government steps in and the BBC steps up to sustain this important welfare benefit. They should sit down together now and broker a solution, or both will be responsible for the hardship & distress to our oldest citizens that will inevitably result.

“All the evidence is that if the BBC’s plan goes ahead, hundreds of thousands of over-75s will struggle to pay for their TV licence. As winter bites this week we know that many pensioners are worried about their heating bills and cutting back spending on other essentials, including food, to save money wherever they possibly can. The last thing older people in this situation need is to be hit in the pocket again in a few months’ time and every year thereafter because they have to find the money for a TV licence too. They are already shelling out a lot on their utilities and for some an extra £150 plus a year will be a bridge too far.”

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