Scottish pensioners’ charity says scrapping of TV licence fee will do ‘untold damage’

A national charity for older people has said that the scrapping of the free TV licence for over 75s is “a huge blow”.

By Kirstie Topp, Local Democracy Reporter
Friday, 10th July 2020, 1:20 pm
Age Scotland says that for those affected by chronic loneliness, TV is real lifeline.
Age Scotland says that for those affected by chronic loneliness, TV is real lifeline.

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

The charity has been working with sister charities Age UK, Age Cymru and Age Northern Ireland 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.

For those affected by chronic loneliness, TV is real lifeline. 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.

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Commenting Age Scotland’s Director of Charity Services, Michelle Supple, 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.

“The free TV licence for over 75s was brought in essentially as a top up to one of the lowest state pensions in the developed world but the UK Government handed responsibility for it to the BBC. That should never have happened and the BBC should never have accepted the responsibility for administering a benefit.

“This has been a political football for too long and it is now for the UK Government to fix. They must urgently get together with the BBC and work out how to keep the free TV licence for over 75s.”