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BBC to end free TV licences for over-75s unless they get pension credit – yet 1.3m eligible households don’t claim it

BBC to end free TV licences for over-75s unless they get pension credit – yet 1.3m eligible households don’t claim it

Free TV licences will only be available for over-75s who receive pension credit from next June, but 1.3 million eligible households don't claim this benefit. So we're calling on the BBC to launch an education campaign about it. Check NOW to see if you're eligible. 

At the moment, all over-75s can apply for a free TV licence to cover their household – but from 1 June 2020, only over-75s who receive the income-related benefit will be eligible.

The BBC says about 1.5 million over-75s will be able to claim for the free licence, but up to 3.7 million who previously would have been eligible for a free licence may have to pay.

A standard TV licence costs £154.50 a year – you need one to watch or record programmes as they're being shown on TV or live on an online TV service, and to download or watch BBC programmes on the iPlayer.

See below on how to check if you're eligible for pension credit, and if not, whether you're entitled to a separate discount, or if you even need a TV licence at all. 

Martin: 'I hope the BBC will launch a campaign to push take-up of the benefit'

Martin Lewis, founder of MoneySavingExpert.com, gave his initial thoughts on the announcement on Twitter. 

What will happen next? 

If you currently have a free over-75 licence, the BBC says you'll be contacted over the next few weeks with details on what you'll need to do from next June.

  • Those who will still qualify for a free TV licence will need to use a "self-verification system" to prove they receive pension credit. The BBC says it will work with older people's groups and support organisations to make the claiming process as easy as possible.  

  • Those who will be over 75 but don't receive pension credit will be covered by their current free licence until 31 May 2020. After this, they'll need to pay, unless they claim pension credit.

    The BBC says it will set up a new payment plan to help over-75s pay for their TV licences after the new rules come in, which will include options to spread the cost as well as telephone support. 

Check NOW if you can claim pension credit

Many of those eligible for pension credit don't actually apply to receive it – the latest Government figures show 40% of those entitled to pension credit don't claim it, leaving up to 1.3 million households missing out. 

So double-check your entitlement for this income top-up now. See our Pension Credit guide for full information, but here's some info to get you started.

To qualify, you must live in England, Scotland or Wales and have reached state pension age. This varies depending on when you were born – use the Government's calculator to check (although you won't be able to get a free TV licence until you're 75, even if you're already receiving pension credit).

The benefit offers a weekly top-up to your income, and is made up of two elements:

  • Guarantee credit. If your weekly income is less than £167.25 as a single pensioner, or your joint weekly income is less than £255.25 as a couple, your income will be topped up to this level.

  • Savings credit. This is mostly only available to those who reached state pension age before 6 April 2016, who have some savings for retirement. You could be eligible for up to £13.73 extra a week for a single person, or £15.35 a week for a couple. Find out more about savings credit.

For claims by couples, the Government defines a partner as "a person you live with as if you were a married couple", regardless of whether or not you are married or in a civil partnership.

If you're eligible, the quickest way to apply for pension credit is to call the Pension Service on 0800 99 1234. It will fill in the application form for you.

You'll need:

  • Your national insurance number
  • Information about your income, savings and investments
  • Your bank account details

You can apply by post if you're unable to make a claim by phone. You can get a friend or family member to call the helpline to ask for a paper application.

You can also backdate your claim by asking over the phone when you apply – or, if you apply by post, stating on the application form that you wish to do so.

If you're not eligible for pension credit, you may be able to get a different discount

If you're not eligible for a free TV licence, you may still be able to get a discount if you meet certain criteria (regardless of your age): 

  • If you're blind or severely sight impaired or live with someone who is, you'll get 50% off the cost of your TV licence – you'll pay £77.25 for a colour set or £26 for a black and white one.

    To claim, you'll need to send TV Licensing a photocopy of a certificate from your ophthalmologist, or a certificate issued by or on behalf of your local authority. Check the TV Licensing website for full details on how to apply. 

  • If you live in a residential care home or sheltered accommodation and watch TV in your room or flat, you may qualify for an 'accommodation for residential care' concessionary TV licence, which costs £7.50 per room, flat or bungalow. 

    You and your accommodation will need to be eligible for the discount – TV Licensing has full details about who qualifies. Your care home manager will be responsible for arranging this licence, so speak to them directly if you're eligible. 

You can also get a discounted rate if you only watch TV in black and white – a black and white licence is discounted to £52.

Only watch catch-up TV? You DON'T have to pay (unless you're watching BBC iPlayer)

If you don't watch or record live TV or iPlayer and only use other catch-up services or streaming services, you may not need a TV licence at all  regardless of your age. 

TV licences are only needed to watch or record TV at the same time as it's broadcast, or to watch the iPlayer.

So watching catch-up or on-demand TV using services such as Netflix, Amazon or Now TV, or catch-up services such as All 4 or ITV Hub, doesn't require a TV licence.

The exceptions are if you're watching iPlayer, or using other catch-up services to watch live TV. 

If you don't need a TV licence, you can cancel  our Do I need a TV licence? guide has full info on how to do it. But remember that if you don't pay and you're caught watching live TV or the iPlayer, you could face a fine of up to £1,000  so only cancel if you're sure you don't need one.  

What does the BBC say? 

BBC director-general Tony Hall said: "This has not been an easy decision. Whilst we know that pensioner incomes have improved since 2000, we also know that for some the TV licence is a lot of money.

"I believe we have reached the fairest judgement after weighing up all the different arguments. It would not be right simply to abolish all free licences. Equally it would not be right to maintain it in perpetuity given the very profound impact that would have on many BBC services.

"This decision is fairest for the poorest pensioners. Around 1.5 million households could get free TV licences if someone is over 75 and receives pension credit. It protects those most in need. And importantly, it is not the BBC making that judgement about poverty. It is the Government who sets and controls that measure."