The petition of the residents of East Kilbride, Strathaven and Lesmahagow,
Declares that free TV licences to households with someone aged over 75 should remain for the foreseeable future; notes that this scheme should remain in governmental hands rather than being privatised via the BBC; further that the removal of the free TV licences will have a negative impact on some of the poorest pensioners in the constituency and across the country; further notes that one of BBC's proposals in the consultation is means-testing the concession by linking the free licenses to pension credit; further that the Department for Work and Pensions own estimates show that nationally 40% (two in five) of those entitled to receive pension credit are not in the receipt of the benefit and would be excluded; further that access to media, especially if frail or housebound, can reduce loneliness in older age and improve wellbeing.
The petitioners therefore request that the House of Commons urges the Government to reverse the planned decision to end the funding of the free TV licence to households with someone aged over 75 and the privatisation of this to the BBC
And the petitioners remain, etc.—[Presented by Dr Lisa Cameron, Official Report, 3 May 2019; Vol. 657, c. 1218 .]
Observations from the Secretary of State for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport (Jeremy Wright):
In the 2015 funding settlement, the Government agreed with the BBC that Government funding for the concession would be phased out between 2018 and 2020, with control of the concession passing to the BBC from June 2020. The Government and the BBC agreed this was a fair deal for the BBC. In return, the Government committed to close the iPlayer loophole and committed to increase the licence fee in line with inflation, among other measures. Parliament subsequently legislated on this matter, so the future of the concession from June 2020 is the legal responsibility of the BBC.
The BBC announced on 10 June 2019 that from June 2020 only those who are over 75 and in receipt of pension credit would continue to receive a free TV licence.
The Government are very disappointed that the BBC will not protect free television licences for all viewers aged over 75. We recognise that television is a vital link to people of all ages, but particularly so for older people who value television as a way to stay connected with the world. That is why we have guaranteed the over 75 concession until June 2020 and that is why we believe that the BBC can do more to support older people, and why we have asked them to do so.
On the concerns about loneliness, the Government recognise loneliness as one of our biggest public health challenges and we are working to help people of all ages to have meaningful social relationships and to avoid loneliness. We were the first Government to appoint a Minister to lead work on tackling loneliness and last year we published a world first Government strategy and secured £20 million of new grant-funding for projects run by charities and community groups to bring people together. The strategy contains over 60 policy commitments, covering many aspects of people’s lives, from transport to health to education.
On the point about the take up of pension credit, not all those who are entitled to claim this benefit are doing so and we would like to see take up increase. The Government are absolutely committed to ensuring that older people receive the support they are entitled to. The DWP uses a wide range of channels to communicate information about benefits; including information on https://gov.uk/, in leaflets and by telephone. DWP staff in pension centres and Jobcentres are also able to provide help and advice about entitlement to benefits, as are staff in local authorities who administer housing benefit.
The DWP has developed a pension credit toolkit to help agencies and welfare rights organisations working with older people in their communities every day to ensure they support older people in this matter and drive take up. https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/pension-credit-toolkit
People who believe that they may be eligible can use the pension credit calculator https://www.gov.uk/pension-credit-calculator or call 0800 99 1234 to check if they are eligible, get an estimate of what they may receive and help on how to claim.