Back in 2015, ministers at the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport and the Treasury decided to end the funding of the free TV licence to households with someone aged over 75. The impact of this change wasn’t felt overnight because the policy has been phased in and responsibility for funding the scheme had been passed to the BBC.

This is an important issue as we know from talking with older people that, for many, having access to a TV can provide a vital source of entertainment and stimulation in the home when spending time alone.

The government has provided this concession to the over 75s since 2001, but now decisions about its future rest with the BBC. By 2020, when the government funding ends, the BBC simply can’t afford it without making cuts to the programmes and services enjoyed by everyone. The move to shift this responsibility from the government was part of charter negotiations – it isn’t necessary and it certainly isn’t fair.

One of the proposals in the BBC consultation that we’re particularly concerned about is means-testing the concession by linking the free licences to Pension Credit. This may seem like a viable option, but that is not the case.

Department for Work and Pensions figures published in November 2018 show that, nationally, a staggering 2 in 5 of those entitled to receive Pension Credit fail to get it. The reasons for not claiming can include a lack of awareness about the entitlement, stigma associated with claiming, or the complexity of the form that must be completed. 

We’ve estimated just how many people in each constituency[1] qualify for Pension Credit, but aren’t claiming it. You can view the results here:

If a decision is taken to link the free TV licence to Pension Credit, not only will these people continue to lose out on vital financial support but they will also lose this much valued concession.

Because this proposal and other options will have a negative impact on some of the poorest pensioners in the country, we believe the government must take back responsibility and ensure that the poorest older people are protected. 

It is for this government to ensure that older people are receiving the financial support they need, and at the same time take responsibility for proposals relating to the TV licence concession which are shown to have a direct impact on Pension Credit policy.

[1] Excludes Northern Ireland – DWP data not available