Stop the switch off and Save Over 75s Free TV

Cllr Alan Hall has joined campaigners, trade unionists and pensioners’ activists and written to the Government and BBC to ask them to stop the switch off for the over 75s. The covid lockdown isn’t over and many older people are shielding. How can this cruel decision be taken now?

Read the letter:

Age UK are campaigning to stop the switch off

Dear Secretary of State Oliver Dowden and Director General Tony Hall,

I’m writing to urge you to sit down and work together urgently to save free TV Licences for over 75s.

The Labour Government introduced the free tv licence for the over-75s when Gordon Brown, Chancellor of the Exchequer produced a ‘budget that unites the whole country’ and ‘offers stability and security for all.’

Fifteen years later, the Chancellor, George Osborne cut £650m from the BBC’s budget, transferred the responsibility for the over-75s licence fee directly to the BBC as he met Rupert Murdoch before the announcement in June 2015.

This sleight of hand was to fund £12bn of benefit cuts mainly from the Department of Work and Pensions – the DWP funded the over-75s free TV licence.

I was bitterly disappointed by the announcement that the BBC are going to proceed with their plans to take away free TV licences from most people over 75. This is a kick in the teeth for older people during a terrible year.

Last year I alongside 634,333 other Age UK supporters signed a petition to keep TV free for all over 75s. I never received a reply from Government.

I am really worried about older people on low incomes who will find it hard to find £150 plus a year to pay for a licence so will have to give up some other essentials, or try to survive without TV at all. I am particularly concerned about older people battling loneliness and isolation, people who aren’t online and for whom the television provides a lifeline to the outside world, information, entertainment and companionship.

I implore you to work together and find a solution to save millions of older people from this decision which will cause enormous anxiety distress and for hundreds of thousands, real hardship.

I look forward to hearing from you.

Yours sincerely,

Cllr Alan Hall

Cllr Alan Hall and Unite Community Greenwich Lewisham & Bexley outside the BBC with pensioners protesting


‘Don’t Switch Us Off’ say pensioners as Over-75s Free TV Licence Faces the Axe

The Labour Government introduced the free tv licence for the over-75s when Gordon Brown, Chancellor of the Exchequer produced a ‘budget that unites the whole country’ and ‘offers stability and security for all.’

Fifteen years later, the Tory’s Chancellor, George Osborne cut £650m from the BBC’s budget, transferred the responsibility for the over-75s licence fee directly to the BBC as he met Rupert Murdoch before the announcement in June 2015.

This sleight of hand was to fund £12bn of benefit cuts mainly from the Department of Work and Pensions – the DWP funded the over-75s free TV licence.

Following a consultation the BBC concluded that the current scheme will end and from 1 June 2020, a free TV licence will only be available to a household with someone aged over 75 who receives pension credit. 

Age UK has launched a petition stating:

“For over a million of our oldest citizens the TV is their constant companion and window on the world. And now it’s under threat.”

“The BBC has announced they will means test free TV licences from the over-75s. 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. But this is really the Government’s doing. They pushed the scheme onto the BBC without asking any of us what we think or providing the funding to sustain it.”

Age UK are calling for the Government to take back responsibility for the free TV licences for the over 75s. Your can sign the petition here.

On Friday, 21st June 2019 a protest was held outside the BBC in Portland Place, London where trade unionists, pensioner groups and their supporters held a rally demanding “Don’t switch us off” and they marched to Oxford Circus causing traffic chaos in the capital. Buses, taxis and pedestrians signalled their support for the pensioners.

DWP ‘spin’ in the Metro challenged

The Disability Benefits Consortium, DBS consisting of over 80 charities alongside Trade Unions and disability campaigners are calling on the Department for Work and Pensions to end their public relations campaign about Universal Credit which appears in the freesheet Metro newspaper.

In a letter to the Advertising Standards Authority, the DBS have said:

“The advert itself is visually misleading and inaccessible. Given the target audience is those who are out of work, many of whom will be sick or disabled, the lack of clarity that it is a DWP advertisement is disingenuous. An internal memo, reported by the Mirror, claims the lack of clarity (no logo or DWP branding) regarding this being a DWP advertisement was deliberate

These are some of the most vulnerable people in society. It is a disgrace that they are being treated with such disregard. At best these adverts are accidentally misleading at worst they are knowingly dangerous to the health and financial security of disabled people.

We believe there is clear evidence that these adverts are misleading and urge the ASA to take this complaint seriously and act as quickly as possible.”

 

According to the Public and Commercial Services Union, PCS, the government department’s positive PR strategy began last month with a series of articles which purportedly “myth-bust the common inaccuracies reported on UC” at a cost to the taxpayer reported to be in excess of £250,000.

Unite the Union had been a constant critic of Universal Credit saying: “Instead of providing a safety net for people on low incomes, Universal Credit is driving more people into debt” and urging people to sign The Mirror’s petition . Unite’s position is to stop and scrap universal credit.

Stop Universal Credit image 082018

The Children’s Commissioner has been examining the impact of Universal Credit and an article about the rollout of UC quoting a foodbank worker on their website says:

“The most urgent thing is to stop the 5 week wait. The advance payment the DWP advertise is in fact a loan that you have to pay off across subsequent payments. So people are starting off in debt.”

“And stopping the benefit cap will take children out of poverty, there is no doubt about it.”

While the DWP is seeking to change public perceptions with its UC myth-busting adverts, over the last six months we have heard contradictory stories from the lived experiences of vulnerable families.

But children are going hungry. It’s not a myth – it’s a fact.”

Disability activists in Disabled People Against Cuts, DPAC are taking direct action,  they say:

We are calling on people to join our campaign to dump Metro DWP lies on any day of the week.

Yes, it’s important that we get the DWP lies off the shelves… but decreasing the circulation of the Metro newspaper 5 days a week rather than just one will make a bigger impact on as to whether the Metro does anything like this again!         

If the Metro was a paid-for paper we would call for a boycott but it’s a free paper so let’s just dent them wherever we can. Investigations have revealed that other newspapers were allegedly approached to run this advertorial and declined; which says a lot about the Metro!”

The National Audit Office, NAO recently produced a report  on Universal Credit and launching the report, Sir Amyas Morse said:  “We think the larger claims for Universal Credit, such as boosted employment, are unlikely to be demonstrable at any point in future. Nor for that matter will value for money.”