Thank you to everyone who has contacted me about for TV licences for people over the age of 75.
In 2015 the cost of these licences will be shifted to the BBC from 2020, without the funding to sustain the policy. To do this the BBC announced that TV licences for people over 75 would become means tested. The Government is blaming the BBC, but public broadcasters should never be responsible for social policy. I opposed this outsourcing of social policy from the start.
The free TV licence is an important benefit for pensioners, who suffer disproportionately from loneliness and social isolation. With TV licences set to be means-tested, millions of older people, almost half of who consider television their main source of company, will have to pay to keep the little company they do have. I am alarmed by Age UK’s analysis which shows that scrapping the free TV licence could push 50,000 pensioners below the poverty line. Taking free TV licences away will also leave many older people feeling isolated and alone.
The current Government was elected on a manifesto which promised to maintain free TV licences for the over-75s throughout this Parliament, meaning until 2022. On 8 May, the House of Commons expressed, unopposed, its belief that the commitment to maintain free TV licences should be honoured. I was pleased to support this Opposition Day motion.
By overseeing the scrapping of free TV licences for the over-75s, the Government has delivered another welfare cut to some of the most vulnerable in our society. This is a betrayal of older citizens, who deserve dignity in retirement and reward for their hard work.
I fully agree that Mr Johnson should ensure the Government takes back responsibility for maintaining the free licence. Unfortunately, he has indicated there will be no change in approach. I can assure you that I will continue to press the Government to step in and fund free TV licences for the over-75s.