The BBC’s decision to scrap free TV licences for people over 75 unless they also get the means-tested Pension Credit benefit has caused widespread protest.
At the moment about 4.6 million get a free licence (the Department for Work and Pensions picks up the bill) and the BBC says it would cost it £745 million a year to continue the scheme after it bears the whole cost from next year.
The licence currently costs £154.50 but is expected to be around £158 from April 2020. The almost 950,000 over-75s who already receive Pension Credit can send proof of their entitlement to TV Licensing and keep their free licence.
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The 3.75 million who do not get Pension Credit will have to pay for their TV licence from 1 June 2020.
Among them are an estimated 650,000 over-75s who could get Pension Credit if they applied.
Pension Credit has one of the worst take-up rates of any means tested benefit. Four out of every ten who could claim it do not do so.
The BBC hopes the change will “raise the visibility of Pension Credit as a way of claiming a free TV licence”. But previous efforts to
increase the take-up of Pension Credit have all failed.
Indeed, takeup has fallen from around 65% in 2004/05 to 60% in 2016/17.
A single person aged 75 or more with an income up to £201.53 a week (£293.61 for a couple) can get Pension Credit. Savings over £10,000 reduce the limits.
They are higher for carers and severely disabled people. People who successfully claim will get a free TV licence even if they get just 1p a week in Pension Credit.
However, on average, over-75s who claim will get £2,500 a year benefit, and if they pay council tax this will often be reduced to zero.
To claim, call 0800 99 1234 with your income details and, if possible, National Insurance number.
Anyone aged 74 and born before 1 June 1945 is still entitled to a free TV licence from their 75th birthday until 1 June 2020. More information at: entitledto. co.uk; tvlicensing.co.uk/age; and gov.uk, search “pension credit”.