At present, all households with residents over 75 years of age are entitled to a free TV licence. As of the 1st of June 2020, the eligibility criteria for free TV Licences for the over 75s is due to change.
Free TV licences for the over 75s were first introduced in 1999. By the then Labour chancellor, Gordon Brown which was a Government-funded scheme. The Government paid the BBC to provide the service which was estimated to cost £745m by 2021/22.
In 2015 UK Parliament ended all funding for free TV Licences for the over 75s and the onus was put onto the BBC to continue funding this. Responsibility was given to the BBC under the Digital Economy Act 2017 to decide on the future of the concession as of June 2020.
What Stopped TV Licenses Being Provided For Over 75’s?
A consultation including 190,000 participants took place across 12 weeks. Ending in February of this year where several different options were considered. These included scrapping free-licences completely. Reducing the cost of the TV licence for over 75s. Raising the age threshold for eligibility. Or finally, to include a means-test. So that only those considered most ‘at need’ of a free TV licence would be eligible for one.
Following the consultation, which the BBC ensure influencing factors such as fairness, financial impact and feasibility were considered deeply. The decision was made that as of the 1st of June 2020 you will have to be over 75 years of age and in receipt of Pension Credit in order to be eligible for a free licence.
It is reported that 52% of participants in the consultation were in favour of reforming the criteria for free TV licences or abolishing them completely.
This decision has been met with varying levels of support. The BBC received 115 responses from different stakeholders from four different ‘categories’. One of which was classed as “Older People’s Groups’ which are organizations that represent the needs and interests of older people. There were great concerns raised by this category of stakeholders in response to the change due next June.
The consensus from this group is that the change in eligibility criteria will have a major impact on the lives of many of our older citizens, particularly those who are most vulnerable who many also be living with a combination of disability or low income. It is reported that nearly 29% of people aged over 75 live just above the poverty line. This still isn’t taking into consideration the extra costs associated if the individual is disabled and would need to consider factors such as care and support costs, higher utility bills and needing to use taxis for example.
Why Should We Give Over 75’s A Free TV License?
For many having access to television is a way of combating isolation and loneliness. It can be a much relied on source of entertainment, news and information. For many over 75s living alone, television can be a source of companionship. It is proven that loneliness can have a negative effect on physical and mental wellbeing and can contribute to depression.
Many over 75s currently in receipt of a free TV licence have raised that they will no longer able to afford to watch television when considering meagre pension and higher living costs. There is great concern that some individuals may cut back on essential items. Such as food and heating in order to meet the newly introduced costings. It is considered particularly unfair for those eligible for Pension Credit but not sure how to claim. Or those just over the threshold to qualify for Pension Credit that they would be expected to pay the full cost of the licence with no discount.
In the media, disputes have been ongoing regarding this newly proposed change. More recently it has been reported that newly-elected Prime Minister Boris Johnson has called upon the BBC to cover the full cost of the licence in keeping with what is in place currently. Many are responding that the responsibility should still be with the government to cover this. Not to ‘pass the buck’ to the BBC.
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