More than two million older people living in Britain could be forced to cut back on the food they eat or shut off their heating to continue watching television, a leading UK charity has warned.
New research carried out for Age UK has found that 40% of people aged 75+ in the UK won’t be able to afford the licence fee, or will have to cut back on everyday essentials including food and heating, to pay for a TV license if concessions are scrapped.
Reforms to BBC funding mean free TV licenses for over-75’s will no longer be funded by the UK Government, but will be left to the discretion of the public broadcaster from 2020.
Since its introduction in 2000, the free TV licence has been seen as a vital ‘benefit’ for the over-75s, with many older people seeing free TV as their only companion and a vital source of comfort and entertainment.
It is believed that millions of older people, particularly those who are lonely or housebound with disabilities, rely on their TV as their trusted companion and only window on the world.
Age UK research suggests that 90% of over-75s believe free TV licenses should be retained – a view shared by Age UK.
But with a public consultation launced by the BBC due to come to an end, it is feared that many older people could lose this crucial resource.
Many of those affected may be housebound, or living with disabilities, and regard television as their only means of accessing entertainment, news and much more.
Caroline Abrahams, Charity Director at Age UK, said: “TV is a source of great pleasure and comfort to many of the oldest people in our society and it’s a crying shame that millions could soon be faced with choosing between cutting down on food and heating or paying to continue to enjoy it.
“The Government created this problem and it is in their power to solve it: we urge them to stop hiding behind the BBC and accept their responsibility for free TV licences for the over-75s.”
Age UK is calling on people of all ages to sign and share its petition, demanding that the UK Government take back responsibility for funding free TV licences for everyone over the age of 75.
Tom Watson MP, Labour’s Shadow Digital, Culture, Media and Sport Secretary, said: “The prospect of older people having to cut back on heating or food in order to keep their TV should leave the Tories examining their consciences.
“Theresa May’s manifesto promised that TV licences for over 75s would be protected.
“If the Government had any compassion for these older people they would step in and save their free TV licences.”