BBC delays decision to scrap free TV licences for over-75s due to coronavirus

by Stephen Little from Moneywise |

Age UK says the delay until August is not long enough

Over-75s will continue to get free TV licences for a further two months as a result of the coronavirus.

They were originally going to be scrapped on 1 June, but this has now been pushed back until 1 August.

The BBC and the Government said in a joint statement they did “not want anyone to be worried about any potential change”.

“The BBC’s priority over the coming period will be to do everything we can to serve the nation at this uniquely challenging time. As the national broadcaster, the BBC has a vital role to play in supplying information to the public in the weeks and months ahead.

“Recognising the exceptional circumstances, the BBC Board has therefore decided to change the start date of the new policy. Our current plan is to now bring it into place on August 1. We will of course keep the issue under review as the situation continues to evolve.”

In 2015, the Government announced it would no longer subsidise the cost of the licence fee and the BBC would have to find the funding itself.

At the moment everyone aged over 75 gets it free but as of August they will have to pay the £154.50 a year themselves.

Age UK says that while it welcomes the delay, two months is not long enough.

Caroline Abrahams, charity director at Age UK, says: “The aim must be to ensure that no older person is exposed to the risk of infection as a result of the introduction of a new TV Licence scheme.

“If the experts are right and the virus will continue to be a threat for many months to come a pause until 1st August will be a lot shorter than needed.”

Age UK says the decision to scrap free TV licences could find the over-75s missing out vital news about the coronavirus.

For many elderly people, TV news is a vital source of information about the coronavirus outbreak.

The elderly may have to self-isolate for up to three months as part of the Government’s plan to protect them from the coronavirus. While not yet official policy, it is expected this plan will be announced in the coming weeks.

If older people are unable to leave their homes, this means access to TV news will be more important than ever.

A spokesperson for Age UK says: “During this national crisis they will want to see and hear what our political and NHS leaders are saying to the country about winning the war against coronavirus, which poses such a direct threat to them and their friends.

“They will want news, reassurance and reasons to be cheerful, and the TV will be key if they are to get this precious input from the outside world.

“Age UK wants the Government and the BBC to meet urgently and agree that the BBC’s replacement scheme for the over-75s is halted immediately and stopped until the end of 2020, with the current universal entitlement staying in place until then.”

Are you still eligible for a free TV licence?

Around 1.5 million households that include someone over 75 claiming pension credit could still be eligible for a free licence.

However, Age UK estimates that two in five of all those eligible don’t claim pension credit, often because they don’t realise they are eligible.

In order to claim pension credit your weekly income must be less than £167.25 if you’re single, or £255.25 if you are a couple.

The quickest way to apply for pension credit is to call the pension service on 0800 991234. Alternatively, you can check your eligibility online on the government website here:

This article was originally published in our sister magazine Moneywise. Click here to subscribe.

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