The National Pensioners’ Convention is concerned to learn that the BBC will end its ‘licence fee grace period’ for over-75s on 31 July with 260,000 pensioners still yet to pay.
The right to a free TV licence for that age group ended last August for all, except those in receipt of the Pension Credit benefit. We understand that the BBC will issue letters urging those still to pay to do so as soon as possible – and that there will be “customer care visits” to pensioners’ homes this autumn.
The NPC has always believed that the free TV licence for over 75s is a government responsibility – an entitlement to compensate for the low state pension – and that Prime Minister Boris Johnson should take back its administration.
Commenting on the BBC announcement of the end of the grace period, Jan Shortt, NPC General Secretary said:
“We are disappointed to hear that at the end of July the BBC have decided to end the period of grace for those over 75s who still need to pay their TV licence fee.
“This was always somewhat inevitable given the government's inability to engage with organisations like the NPC to ensure that the responsibility for the funding of the free TV licence goes back to where it belongs – with them.
“Social welfare is not the prerogative of the BBC - it is the absolute, unequivocal duty of the government to maintain universal pensioner entitlements like the TV licence, the bus pass and winter fuel allowance.
“The NPC is worried that among those still to pay their licence fee, will be frail and vulnerable people who simply cannot afford it, or who don’t know or understand how to pay - especially with many still frightened to go out, even after their Covid-19 vaccinations. It is concerning that this age group of people could find themselves being put through the stressful court process.
“‘Customer care’ visits must be undertaken with extreme care and understanding. We urge the government to step in and stop all of this from happening.
“With pensioner poverty increasing, the NPC has always been concerned that those who are just above the Pension Credit threshold will potentially fall into poverty. Already, these are the individuals making daily choices about the priorities on which they spend their money. Having to find money for a TV licence is just one more call on their limited resources.
“Pensioner poverty will not be resolved by Pension Credit alone. The NPC campaigns for a decent state pension for all set at 70% of the National Living Wage and uprated by the triple lock on an annual basis. This is affordable in a society that is still one of the wealthiest countries in the economically developed world.”
Download the press release