City MP asks Portsmouth people to pledge support to over-75s TV Licence campaign

Stephen Morgan MP has been taking action to stop the Government snatching free TV Licences for over-75s. With concerns over loneliness and social isolation constantly being raised, the city MP is now asking local people for support for his campaign

The BBC this week announced changes to the highly popular current scheme after the Government performed a u-turn on their manifesto pledge and decided to remove free TV licences from some over-75s.

In a move condemned by Age UK, the Labour Party and the trade unions associated with the BBC, the Government asked the BBC to review the scheme who have decided to initiate a system of means-testing that will see millions of elderly and vulnerable people face hardship.

Earlier this year the MP wrote to local pensioners understand the impact of any changes, met with the Portsmouth Pensioners Association to hear views, raised parliamentary questions, wrote to the Secretary of State responsible and met with Age UK to support their complementary ‘Switched Off’ campaign to keep the benefit for older people.

Despite these extensive efforts, the Government has not listened.

Portsmouth South MP Stephen Morgan MP said:

“The decision taken to means-test TV Licences for over 75s, overseen by the Government, is unequivocally unjust and the principle that it will target those that can afford it is deeply flawed.

It is estimated that 1.3 million of society’s most vulnerable people over 75 do not claim pension credit because they are unable to fill in the forms, do not have access to the internet or are simply not able to. These people, who are already among society’s most in need, will now have their free TV licence seized from them.

It is not only morally corrupt that the Government is initiating the scrapping of free TV licences for 3 million older people, it also contradicts their own manifesto pledge.

I recently wrote out to Portsmouth pensioners to hear their views and concerns. The response I received was both overwhelming and moving.

I now urge all people in Portsmouth to back my efforts to urge the Government to think again, take back responsibility for this social policy, and keep the current popular scheme for our city’s pensioners”.

Examples of feedback from Portsmouth constituents as a result of the MP’s interventions include:

“I lost my wife in January and now I spend a lot of time alone. Having the TV on in the background is like having someone with me, I do not know what I would do without it.”

Southsea resident, aged 95

“I am 93 years old, for 33 of those years, I was in active service in the Army. TV is a means of company and I find the prospect of losing it very worrying”

Milton resident, aged 93

“At 87 years old, a widow crippled with arthritis, TV is a big part of my life and keeps me entertained and in touch whilst sitting knitting. I am one who needs it so much that I would have to find some way of finding the money for a licence by not spending so much on food. Please do what you can for us”.

Fratton resident, aged 87

To show your support for Stephen’s campaign for Portsmouth pensioners click here

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The call has been backed by Caroline Abrahams, Charity Director at Age UK. She said:

“Make no mistake, if this scheme goes ahead we are going to see sick and disabled people in their eighties and nineties who are completely dependent on their cherished TV for companionship and news, forced to give it up. Means-testing may sound fair but in reality, it means at least 650,000 of our poorest pensioners facing a big new annual bill they simply can’t afford, because though eligible for Pension Credit they don’t actually get it.

The BBC’s decision will cause those affected enormous anxiety and distress, and some anger too, but in the end this is the Government’s fault, not the BBC’s, and it is open to a new Prime Minister to intervene and save the day for some of the most vulnerable older people in our society who will otherwise suffer a big blow to their pockets and to their quality of life.

The decent thing for the Government to do is to continue to fund the entitlement until the BBC’s overall funding deal comes up for negotiation in 2022. This would be warmly welcomed by our older population as a much fairer way to proceed.”

Head of BECTU, sector of Prospect that is the main trade union for BBC staff Philippa Childs added:

“BECTU has argued that free TV licence for over-75s is a welfare benefit and should be funded by the Government.

While the BBC’s decision will enable the most vulnerable pensioners to continue to receive a free TV licence it should never have been the BBC’s responsibility to solve this problem.

The BBC needs to be properly funded and supported as a public service broadcaster in order to thrive with globally competitive content and effective reach to its audiences.

It should not be made to choose who receives a welfare benefit simply because the Government has decided to pass the buck.”