Free telly for over-75s about to be quashed

Borderers over the age of 75 are being urged to check if they are eligible for pension credit ahead of the BBC’s upcoming removal of their free TV licences.

Older people protest against the licence fee changes for over-75s at the BBC Scotland HQ in Glasgow's Pacific Quay.
Older people protest against the licence fee changes for over-75s at the BBC Scotland HQ in Glasgow's Pacific Quay.

The change, due to come into force on August 1 will mean older people will have to pay the full fee of £157.50 to watch television, unless they are in receipt of pension credit.

However, it is estimated that as few as 40% of senior citizens eligible actually claim this benefit.

The issue has been taken up by Dumfriesshire, Clydesdale and Tweeddale MP David Mundell, who says he is worried how the change will affect older people in his rural area, as watching TV is their main link to the outside world.

He has written to Oliver Dowding, the UK government’s culture secretary, to ask him to urgently intervene.

In his letter to the minister, Mr Mundell states: “This pandemic has seen the elderly rely on TV more than ever to stave off isolation induced by social distancing measures.

"To choose now, therefore, to make this announcement is inexplicable.”

Also fighting the change is the charity Age Scotland.

The charity’s head of policy and communications, Adam Stachura, said: “The decision to scrap free TV licences for over-75s came as a huge blow and it’s extremely disappointing that the UK Government didn’t step in, as they had previously promised, to save free TV for this age group.

“We know that people are still really angry about this change and despite the backlash and protests from various charities and older people’s groups across the country it’s still going ahead.

"Now, although some have come to terms with it, the BBC may be surprised to find just how many view the fight as far from over. At any rate, ending the Covid amnesty period while we are still in the throes of the virus will undoubtedly place additional pressure on older people.

“There are a variety of reasons why older people may not yet have arranged payment for their TV licence, from a lack of awareness to simply being unwilling or unable to foot this extra bill.

“We would urge anyone who is worried about paying for their TV licence to call our free 0800 124 4222 helpline, where our advisers can carry out a full entitlement check to find out if they are eligible for any additional support – including pension credit.”