‘50,000 face poverty if free TV li­cence is axed’

Western Daily Press (Saturday) - - News - VICKY SHAW [email protected]­erndai­ly­press.co.uk

AS many as 50,000 UK pen­sion­ers could be pushed be­low the poverty line if the free TV li­cence was to be scrapped for over-75s, Age UK claims.

The char­ity said it wants the Govern­ment to take back re­spon­si­bil­ity for fund­ing free TV li­cences.

The BBC has pre­vi­ously launched a con­sul­ta­tion pe­riod to de­cide how li­cence fees for over-75s should be paid for, with var­i­ous po­ten­tial op­tions sug­gested. Cur­rently, house­holds with peo­ple over 75 are en­ti­tled to a free TV li­cence.

But that Govern­ment-funded scheme - which is ex­pected to cost £745 mil­lion by 2021-22 - comes to an end in June 2020.

Age UK said its es­ti­mates sug­gest that around 50,000 UK pen­sion­ers could be pushed be­low the poverty line if the free li­cence fee was to be scrapped. It said the free li­cence has been a highly val­ued, univer­sal en­ti­tle­ment for the over-75s, help­ing mil­lions sus­tain their qual­ity of life into late old age.

The char­ity said that an ad­di­tional bill of £150.50 - the cur­rent cost of an an­nual TV li­cence - “will un­doubt­edly cause great worry and dis­tress to hun­dreds of thou­sands of vul­ner­a­ble pen­sion­ers who are al­ready strug­gling to get by, po­ten­tially forc­ing them to cut back on other es­sen­tials such as heat­ing and food in or­der to re­main in­formed, en­ter­tained, stim­u­lated and con­nected to the world be­yond their doorstep”.

It has launched a pe­ti­tion on the is­sue and so far there have been more than 30,000 sig­na­tures.

Caro­line Abra­hams, char­ity direc­tor at Age UK, said: “Scrap­ping the free TV li­cence would be a real blow for many older peo­ple who al­ready have many other chal­lenges to con­tend with. Mil­lions of older peo­ple, par­tic­u­larly those who are lonely or house­bound with dis­abil­i­ties, rely on their TV as their trusted com­pan­ion and win­dow on the world, and it would be cruel in­deed to un­der­mine this in any way.”

She con­tin­ued: “Un­for­tu­nately the threat of pen­sioner poverty has not been van­quished in this coun­try.

“In fact of­fi­cial statis­tics make it clear that, after big ad­vances at the start of this cen­tury, progress has more re­cently jud­dered to a halt and gone into re­verse. At Age UK we are deeply con­cerned that scrap­ping free TV li­cences will sim­ply ac­cen­tu­ate this trend, push­ing up to 50,000 more pen­sion­ers the wrong side of the poverty line.”

Age UK said it had based its cal­cu­la­tions on the Fam­ily Re­sources Sur­vey.

A BBC spokesman said: “Free TV li­cences for peo­ple over 75 are ex­pected to cost £745 mil­lion a year by 2021-22, and Govern­ment fund­ing for the scheme ends in June 2020.

“This is a re­ally im­por­tant is­sue. We’re con­scious that pen­sioner poverty is still an is­sue for some older peo­ple.

“We have set out a range of op­tions in our con­sul­ta­tion - each has mer­its and con­se­quences, with im­pli­ca­tions for the fu­ture of the BBC and for ev­ery­one, in­clud­ing older peo­ple.

“We need to hear ev­ery­one’s views to help the BBC make the best and fairest de­ci­sion.”

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