Scrapping free TV licences for over 75s would be ‘catastrophic’

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Support organisations in Oban are warning the BBC’s decision to scrap free TV licences for the over 75s could be a ‘catastrophe’ for many people.

The BBC has decided to go ahead with its plan to end free TV licences for most over-75s. The move follows a two-month delay because of the coronavirus pandemic.

That means over-75s will have to pay the £157.50 fee from August 1. Only those who receive the Pension Credit benefit will be exempt.

Age Scotland has warned that the decision will do untold damage to the lives of hundreds of thousands of older people countrywide.

The national charity for older people has been working with other charities on a huge campaign to get the BBC to reverse its plan to remove the benefit for over-75s of a free TV licence, arguing that it is a lifeline service for many.

Organisations in Oban are agreeing that presenting over-75s with a new annual bill for £157.50 at this time is particularly harsh as lots of older people are already struggling to cope with lockdown and shielding during the coronavirus pandemic.

David Entwistle, chairman of Oban Hospice Ltd said: ‘It seems a nit-picky to do that to older people. It’s rather harsh and would add another layer of difficulty on people at what is already a difficult time for many.’

And Judith Hawcroft who is manager at North Argyll Carers Centre said: ‘TV is quite clearly a lifeline for many older people. If they are denied access to it, it could be a catastrophe.’

According to research from Age Scotland half of over-75s said that their TV or a pet was their main form of company before the pandemic, while nine in 10 watched TV every day.

Michelle Supple, Age Scotland’s Director of Charity Services, said: ‘The timing of this announcement is atrocious and it will be one of the last things older people want to hear right now. Life has been hard enough for them in recent months, now the lifeline of their TV could be taken away. Around 300,000 over-75s in Scotland will shortly be faced with a new bill to contend with.

‘This decision will no doubt have a significant impact on levels of loneliness as for half of all over-75s, their TV is their main form of company. It has been their window on the world and as this coronavirus crisis has unfolded, a hugely valuable source of information and news.

‘Many older people say that they will find it difficult to pay for this new bill. The choice they now face is their TV or other essentials. At a minimum, tens of thousands of pensioners on the lowest incomes will miss out on the BBC’s flawed criteria for continuing to get their licence for free, as 40 per cent of those eligible for pension credit do not claim it and many thousands live just above this financial threshold’

Mrs Supple said the UK government ‘must urgently get together with the BBC and work out how to keep the free TV licence for over-75s.’