BBC bosses are set to strip 1million vulnerable pensioners of their free TV licence from next June
- The BBC has said that it will offer the benefit only to the very poorest retirees
- Age UK highlight huge impact the change will have on some of the most in need
- Labour has promised to save free TV licences for all over-75s if it wins power
More than a million of the most frail and vulnerable pensioners face having to pay for their TV licences next year, a charity has warned.
The BBC – which is taking over the cost of funding free TV licences for the over-75s from June – has said it will offer the benefit only to the very poorest retirees who get Pension Credit.
But research by the Age UK charity shows the huge impact the change will have on some of the most in need elderly people.
It found that, of the 1.6million over-75s who claim either Attendance Allowance or Disability Living Allowance, around a million will no longer get a free TV licence.
More than a million of the most frail and vulnerable pensioners face having to pay for their TV licences next year, a charity has warned
Attendance Allowance is paid to pensioners who have care needs because of physical or mental disabilities, while Disability Living Allowance is given to those who have extra needs for care or getting around because of their disability.
The BBC was given responsibility for providing free TV licences as part of the 2015 licence fee deal. It initially agreed to pay but sparked fury earlier this year when it said it could no longer afford the full £745million-a-year cost and was scaling back the benefit.
With the General Election in the offing, Age UK is calling on all political parties to make a commitment in their manifestos to work with the BBC to ensure the benefit remains for all over-75s.
The BBC – which is taking over the cost of funding free TV licences for the over-75s from June – has said it will offer the benefit only to the very poorest retirees who get Pension Credit
Its charity director Caroline Abrahams said: ‘Attendance Allowance helps older disabled people with some of the costs of their disabilities, enabling them to stay independent for longer.
The bar for being eligible for this benefit is set quite high so by definition many among this group of a million-plus people are likely to have difficulty getting out and about.
‘If you are in this position, largely confined to your four walls, TV is so much more than a box in the corner, often acting as your main source of news, entertainment and companionship. It seems utterly heartless to take a free licence away in this situation.
‘We know that come next summer there will be older people, in every constituency, who will be forced to spend an extra £154.50 a year they can ill afford to buy a TV licence.
‘Linking a free licence to Pension Credit means hundreds of thousands of the poorest won’t get the help they badly need and so risk having to choose between giving up their cherished TV or skimping on heating or eating. Surely that’s totally unacceptable.’
Labour has promised to save free TV licences for all over-75s if it wins power, while Boris Johnson has also said it is important the benefit is maintained and is said to have asked his officials to find a way of keeping it. But there have been no specific details from No 10 on how this will be achieved.
Last week a House of Lords committee said the cost of funding the free licences should never have been passed on to the BBC by the Government.
A BBC spokesman said last night: ‘It was the Government who decided to stop funding free TV licences for the over-75s and Parliament gave responsibility to the BBC to make a decision on the future of the scheme.
‘We’ve reached the fairest decision we can in funding free TV licences for the poorest pensioners, while protecting BBC services.’