The BBC will delay TV licence fee changes for the over-75s until August in light of the coronavirus outbreak.
Plans to scrap free TV licences for up to 3.7 million over-75s, excluding those who can prove they are in receipt of Pension Credits, have been pushed back from June 1 to August 1.
A spokesman for the BBC said its priority over the coming period is to ‘do everything it can to serve the nation at this uniquely challenging time’ and said the issue will remain under review as the situation continues to evolve.
However, Age UK charity director Caroline Abrahams questioned whether a delay of just eight weeks will be long enough.
Caroline Abrahams, charity director at Age UK, said: ‘We welcome the BBC’s decision to allow free TV Licences for over-75s to continue during this health emergency as a victory for common sense.
‘Unfortunately many over-75s will have already received a letter suggesting they get their Pension Credit letters photocopied at the local library or corner shop.
‘This runs counter to the public health message the government seems likely to be giving older people very soon about staying at home to reduce their risk of infection, so it’s important older people are informed that there’s no need for them to take this action for now.
‘While today’s decision is warmly welcome we do question whether a delay of just eight weeks will be anything like long enough. We will be monitoring the situation closely and continuing to liaise with government and the BBC over this period.
‘The aim must be to ensure that no older person is exposed to the risk of infection as a result of the introduction of a new TV Licence scheme. If the experts are right and the virus will continue to be a threat for many months, to come to pause until 1st August will be a lot shorter than needed.’
Culture secretary Oliver Dowden said: ‘I am pleased the BBC has worked with us and agreed to delay their licence fee changes for over 75s from coming in and will keep this under review.
‘It will be welcome news to millions of older people who now don’t need to worry about their TV licence during this challenging period.
‘It is right that the BBC have recognised the exceptional circumstances posed by the coronavirus outbreak and the need for the whole country to pull together in the national effort.’
BBC chairman, David Clementi said: ‘The BBC board has decided to delay changes to over 75s licence fees.
‘We are in exceptional circumstances. Now is not the right time. We are fully focussed on delivering our services to the public at this difficult time.’
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