If you’ve been following the news, you’d be forgiven for thinking that the government has decided to mount a sustained assault on its pensioners. by aiming to scrap the over 75s tv licences concession.
Setting the social care crisis to one side, two recent policy changes give rise for concern.
In May, changes to Pension Credit, one of the most under-claimed benefits, saw mixed age couples lose around £7,000 in annual income. And in June, the BBC confirmed that it would cease to fund free TV licences for all 3.7 million over 75s and would restrict the benefit to the UK’s poorest pensioners, those in receipt of Pension Credit.
The scrapping of the over 75s licence fee concession is one of the cruellest and most unnecessary benefit cuts to be carried out by this government because it will hit the housebound, the frail and disabled and the most socially isolated people hardest.
New figures acquired by the Labour Party show that 11,688 people aged 100 years old or more, 109,083 people aged 95 plus and 469,622 people aged over 90 will be adversely affected by this callous policy. As many elderly people are already struggling to survive on incredibly tight incomes, they simply won’t buy a TV licence next year.
Loneliness and social isolation are expected to soar. One in four over 65s say television is their main source of companionship, so losing this lifeline will have a devastating impact on their mental health. The NHS could see its scarce resources stretched beyond breaking point trying to cope with the many seniors who’ve been plunged into depression because their main means of contact with the outside world has been stripped from them.
The one silver lining in this sorry saga is that the BBC has agreed to publicise Pension Credit and its link to a free TV licence. Take-up of the benefit is expected to rise by 250,000, giving those who apply for it an extra £65 a week to live on as well as a free TV licence.
Interestingly, the Office for Budget Responsibility said an “unintended consequence” of offloading the funding for the over 75s free TV licences onto the BBC was that it will cost the government £850m, as more people will sign up to Pension Credit. That’s £100m more than it costs to provide the free TV licences. Let’s hope a re-think of this policy is imminent.
Source: Dignity Magazine