Charities welcome delay to TV licence fee for over-75s - but say it’s not enough

Jo Reeder of Age UK Suffolk has welcomed a delay to the change to TV licence fees for over-75s, but

Jo Reeder of Age UK Suffolk has welcomed a delay to the change to TV licence fees for over-75s, but is calling for a further rethink. Pictures: PA/Archant - Credit: PA/Archant

Charities working with older people in East Anglia today welcomed the BBC’s decision to delay licence fee changes for over 75s until August.

However, they said that such a short delay would not be enough in light of the current coronavirus pandemic - and suggested a much longer delay or scrapping the change.

The free TV licence for all over-75s had been due to end on June 1, and to then be restricted to people who claim pension credit. However, this has now been pushed back until August 1.

A joint statement from the BBC and Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport said: ““As the national broadcaster, the BBC has a vital role to play in supplying information to the public in the weeks and months ahead.

READ MORE - Public health chief’s coronavirus warning“Recognising the exceptional circumstances, the BBC board has therefore decided to change the start date of the new policy. We will of course keep the issue under review as the situation continues to evolve.”

Jo Reeder, head of fundraising and marketing at Age UK Suffolk, said: “Covid-19 presents a real worry and risk to the health and wellbeing of older people and if such measures of self-isolation are going to be imposed, older people are going to be even more reliant on their TV for a connection to the outside world.

“We are pleased that the decision has been made to delay but would also urge the BBC and the government to come up with a solution for this outside of the current crisis.

“The reality is that many thousands of older people rely heavily on their TV, and for some, this is the only contact that they have with the world.

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“By taking away free TV licenses, this could have a significant impact on older people’s feelings of loneliness and social isolation”.

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Ann Osborn, CEO of Rural Coffee Caravan, which works with communities across Suffolk, also welcomed the move, but said it did not go far enough.

“I don’t think older people should pay the charge at all,” she said.

“Older people may have to be isolated for four months, and television is very important for so many people.

“I think if people were afraid to use their TV because of having to pay, that would be awful. It has been estimated that one in 10 older people see the television as their main companion, which is very sad.”

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