The BBC is to delay changes to the free TV licences for the over-75s due to the Coronavirus outbreak.
Free TV licenses for the over-75s were due to be scrapped on the 1st of June, but have been pushed back to the 1st of August.
The original plan was for everyone over the age of 75 to start paying the annual £157.50 TV licence fee from the 1st of June.
Only those who are from low-income households and recieves pension credit were set to continue to still receive free TV licences after the BBC took on responsibility for funding the benefit.
This change has been said to affect over 3.7 million people in the UK. The BBC has confirmed that they will foot the two month bill, which is speculated to cost £85 million.
In a joint statement, Culture Secretary Oliver Dowden said:
“I am pleased the BBC has worked with us and agreed to delay their licence fee changes for over 75s from coming in and will keep this under review.
“It will be welcome news to millions of older people who now don’t need to worry about their TV licence during this challenging period.
“It is right that the BBC have recognised the exceptional circumstances posed by the coronavirus outbreak and the need for the whole country to pull together in the national effort.”
BBC Chairman, David Clementi said:
“The BBC board has decided to delay changes to over 75s licence fees. We are in exceptional circumstances. Now is not the right time. We are fully focussed on delivering our services to the public at this difficult time.”
A 2018 report estimated that continuing to providing free licences for the 2020/2021 financial year would cost the BBC around £700m.
Charity Age UK’s director Caroline Abrahams’ has released the following statement about the Beeb’s decision to halt licensing changes:
“We welcome the BBC’s decision to allow free TV Licences for over-75s to continue during this health emergency as a victory for common sense.
“Unfortunately, many over-75s will have already received a letter suggesting they get their Pension Credit letters photocopied at the local library or corner shop.
“This runs counter to the public health message the Government seems likely to be giving older people very soon about staying at home to reduce their risk of infection, so it’s important older people are informed that there’s no need for them to take this action for now.
“While today’s decision is warmly welcomed we do question whether a delay of just 8 weeks will be anything like long enough.
“We will be monitoring the situation closely and continuing to liaise with Government and the BBC over this period. The aim must be to ensure that no older person is exposed to the risk of infection as a result of the introduction of a new TV Licence scheme.
“If the experts are right and the virus will continue to be a threat for many months to come a pause until 1 August will be a lot shorter than needed.”
Age UK believes that it isn’t “unbelievably cruel” to remove older people’s access to the TV, with their research suggesting that more than 2 million over 75s will have to go without TV or cut back on heating and food if free TV licences are to be scrapped.
The NHS advises to:
Stay at home for 7 days if you have either:
- a high temperature – you feel hot to touch on your chest or back
- a new, continuous cough – this means you’ve started coughing repeatedly
- Do not go to a GP surgery, pharmacy or hospital.
- You do not need to contact 111 to tell them you’re staying at home.
- Testing for coronavirus is not needed if you’re staying at home.
Phone 111 if:
- you feel you cannot cope with your symptoms at home
- your condition gets worse
- your symptoms do not get better after 7 days
You can read more advice and information about the Coronavirus on the NHS website here.