Blind man's fear over TV licence

A CHARITY last night hit out at TV licensing bosses as they revealed a severely disabled blind man was left in fear of going to jail after he was confronted by an official at his sheltered home.

A CHARITY last night hit out at TV licensing bosses as they revealed a severely disabled blind man was left in fear of going to jail after he was confronted by an official at his sheltered home.

The “extremely shaken” bed-ridden 58-year-old, who lives on his own in Bury St Edmunds, is believed to have been approached over an unpaid £5 bill by a representative of the TV Licensing Authority.

The incident was yesterday criticised as “heavy handed” by members of the West Suffolk Voluntary Association for the Blind, who are involved in caring for the man involved and have stepped in to help him sort the matter out.

Chief Executive Alan Webster said an authority representative was believed to have “talked” his way into the man's home: “He was extremely worried by what had happened.


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“He gave instructions to a carer to get him a full licence the next day with money he could ill afford.

“But tenants in sheltered accommodation do not normally pay as this is done by the housing authority landlord under a special scheme.”

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Mr Webster said the charity had intervened to try and resolve the case but believed it raised serious concerns about the methods used by the licensing authority and the systems in place to avoid such incidents.

He added: “Our intervention has restored some sanity to this case. It was obvious that some fundamental error had been made along the line. I think the moral of the story is don't let anyone in your home even if they have ID.

“Genuine callers should be asked to make a proper appointment so the vulnerable person can arrange to have someone with them they know and trust.”

Jane Challon, the man's volunteer carer with the West Suffolk Voluntary Association for the Blind, said his door was open when the official called.

Mrs Challon, who said her client was shocked by the incident, stressed: “He said the man came in and said several letters had been sent.

“He phoned me to ask me to buy a license and told me how worried he was that he might go to prison. “So I phoned WSVAB and they were absolutely brilliant and they organised the whole thing.”

WSVAB volunteers got in touch with the TV Licensing Authority and told them the man's license was discounted because he lived in sheltered housing.

However, she said they were told he had been left off a list detailing his discount.

A TV Licensing spokesperson said that when someone is living in sheltered housing it is the local authority's responsibility - in this case Suffolk Housing Society - to ensure an Accommodation Residential Care (ARC) concessionary licence is renewed.

A spokeswoman for the Suffolk Housing Society apologised for any distress caused.

“We should have paid £5 to renew his licence in May this year,” she said. “We have done everything we can to rectify the problem since we heard about it last week.

“As soon as we were told we spoke to TV Licensing to satisfy ourselves that the tenant would not get an unpleasant visit from bailiffs.”

She added that a letter, together with payment, had now been sent to TV Licensing officials.

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