The National Pensioners Convention is calling on Prime Minister Boris Johnson to keep his pre-election promise and retain free TV licences for over 75’s.
As the clock ticks down to the May 31 deadline when the universal benefit, first introduced in 1999, is scrapped the NPC – the campaigning organisation for older people -says the PM must act fast.
NPC General Secretary Jan Shortt commented: “We appeal to the Prime Minister to be true to his word and save this vital benefit.
“Isolation and loneliness are huge issues for older people. For many their TV is their window on the world and the only company they have. With over two million living below the poverty line, they simply can’t afford £154.40 for a TV licence.”
Mr Johnson is on record as saying it was ‘crucial’ to retain the benefit and he aimed to thrash out a new funding formula with the BBC, who were passed the £745 million bill for the benefit by the Government. Speaking last November* he saidhe would hold talks with the BBC as the issue needed ‘sorting out urgently.’ However in an interview with BBC yesterday (14th January) – the PM’s first of 2020 – he made no mention of the issue.
The BBC says it cannot afford to fund all free licences for over 75’s and plans to means-test older people by giving it only to those who receive Pension Credit.
The NPC strongly believes the Government, not the BBC, have responsibility for funding the free over 75’s licence as part of a wider package of universal pensioner benefits in lieu of a decent state pension.
Jan Shortt said: “We call on the Government to respect this and take the free licence back under the benefits umbrella as a matter of urgency to give peace of mind to those worried about how they will manage to pay.”
Research by Age UK, working alongside the NPC to campaign for free TV licences for all over-75s, shows many people will fall through the means-testing net, and that 50,000 could be pushed below the poverty line if the BBC plan goes ahead. The charity says more than two million over 75s will have to go without TV or cut back on heating and food in order to remain informed, entertained, stimulated and connected to the world beyond their doorstep. Age UK has sent a 634,334 signature petition to 10 Downing Street to call for the free licence to be saved.
*The Prime Minister was speaking in a pre-election interview with The Sun on Sunday, November 2019.
The National Pensioners Convention was set up in 1979 to champion the rights and welfare of the UK’s older people. It now represents more than 1.5 million people in over 1000 different organisations across the UK. It holds an annual pensioner’s parliament which debates current issues affecting the nation’s older population. The 2020 National Pensioners Annual Convention – previously known as the NPC Pensioners’ Parliament – will be held in Southport from June 2 to 4, 2020.