'It will be a terrible blow' - MP's fear that thousands of pensioners could lose free TV licences
There are fears that 6,000 pensioners could lose their free TV licences in a move described as a “terrible blow” by Jarrow MP Stephen Hepburn.
Mr Hepburn raised his concerns in Parliament on behalf of the elderly living in his constiuency.
According to figures from the House of Commons Library, almost 6,000 older households in Jarrow are at risk of losing their free TV licences in 2020 – the year from which the BBC will decide what to do with the benefit.
The Conservatives pledged to protect free TV licences until 2022 in their 2017 election manifesto in 2017 – but the Government devolved responsibility and cost forthe policy to the BBC.
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A decision is due on the issue this summer, with a number of options on the table.
These include scrapping the free TV licence concession, raising the eligible age to 80 and making it means tested.
Mr Hepburn addressed the housing during Digital, Culture, Media and Sport Questions.
He said: “It was a Labour Government who introduced free TV licences for pensioners, in the vital battle against isolation, loneliness and severe mobility problems.
“Next year, up to 6,000 pensioners could lose their licence in Jarrow. Half of them class the TV as their main source of company. What is the Minister going to do about that?”
Jeremy Wright MP, Secretary of State for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport, said they “do not yet know" what the BBC decision will be.
Those aged 75 or older are currently eligible for a free licence. You can still get one if you live with people who are younger than you, and if you are 74 you can buy a short-term licence which will last until you are 75.
Mr Hepburn continued: “It will be a terrible blow to older people who already struggle to make ends meet and particularly to those who are housebound or isolated and rely on their television for company.
“Labour completely opposes this and we are still firmly of the belief that the Government was totally wrong to outsource a social policy in this way.”