Coronavirus: Government must scrap TV licence charges for over 75s not just delay

Unite, the UK and Ireland’s largest union, is calling on the government to totally scrap its plans to begin means testing the over 75s for free TV licences.

The union made its call after it was announced today that the plans to introduce means testing had been delayed from June this year to August, as a result of the coronavirus and the expected decision to ask over 70s to self-isolate, at some point in the near future.

Scrap not delay

It has been planned that from June (now changed to 1 August this year) the over 75s will no longer receive a free TV licence unless they claim pension credit. Currently 1.2 million eligible pensioners are not claiming the pension credit that they are entitled to.

Research by Age UK has found that in order to pay for a TV licence in the future, two million over 75s will have to go without their TV or cut back on heating or food.

Since the coronavirus crisis began there has been a huge increase in people watching the news, with the BBC in particular having had a dramatic increase in viewers. This underlines the corporation’s unique role in providing information to the general public in times of crisis.

Vital lifeline

Unite assistant general secretary Steve Turner, who has responsibility for the union’s pensioner members, said: “The plan to begin means testing free TV licences must be dropped rather than simply delayed.

 “The coronavirus crisis has demonstrated how critical it is that the entire population and older people in particular have access to the television to find out what is happening.

 “We simply do not know how long the crisis will continue and for how long older people will have to self-isolate.

 “The TV licence is a lifeline for so many who are currently facing forced isolation for an unknown period.

 “The government should put aside the ideology and do the right thing by the generation that have already lived through and given so much.”

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