Age Scotland’s message to over-75s: Check your eligibility for Pension Credit ahead of TV Licence grace period deadline
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Following the announcement that the TV licence fee grace period will end on July 31 with an estimated 260,000 over-75s yet to pay, Age Scotland is urging older people to call their helpline to check their eligibility for Pension Credit.
Despite multiple attempts to save the service and ongoing anger surrounding the decision, free TV licences for over-75s were scrapped last August and are now only free for people in this age group who are in receipt of this means-tested benefit which tops up the state pension for those on a low income.
A transition period for payment was granted due to the pandemic but this will come to an end next week.
The BBC will then write to those still to pay and have indicated that ‘customer care visits’ are expected to begin this autumn.
Age Scotland says that the mention of enforcement visits will increase anxiety levels and, in an effort to protect as many over-75s as possible from this extra bill, is urging people to find out whether they could be missing out on Pension Credit support if they have not already done so.
The charity is also warning older people to be on the look-out for any potential TV Licensing scam attempts, which have emerged in the past from those looking to take advantage of the introduction of these charges.
Age Scotland’s head of policy and communications, Adam Stachura, said: “The decision to scrap free TV licences for over-75s came as a huge blow and it’s extremely disappointing that the UK Government didn’t step in, as they had previously promised, to save free TV for this age group.
"We know that people are still really angry about this change and despite the backlash and protests from various charities and older people’s groups across the country it’s still going ahead.
“Now, although some have come to terms with it, the BBC may be surprised to find just how many view the fight as far from over.
"At any rate, ending the Covid amnesty period while we are still in the throes of the virus will undoubtedly place additional pressure on older people.
“There are a variety of reasons why older people may not yet have arranged payment for their TV licence, from a lack of awareness to simply being unwilling or unable to foot this extra bill.
“At a time when many older people are already feeling financially squeezed as a result of the pandemic with rising household costs, there’s a real risk that thousands of over-75s who fall just above the threshold for Pension Credit will be hardest hit and may face difficult decisions about how best to spend their money.
“We would urge anyone who is worried about paying for their TV licence to call our free helpline on 0800 12 44 222, where our advisers can carry out a full entitlement check to find out if callers are eligible for any additional financial support – including Pension Credit.
“Going forward, it’s important that any so-called ‘customer care’ visits are carried out with the utmost levels of understanding and respect, if indeed they need to take place at all, and that information is shared sensitively and accessibly.
"The last thing we want is these visits being used as a fearmongering tactic, leaving older people anxious about an unexpected appearance at their door.
“With payment now expected, there’s also a risk of a surge in TV Licensing scams so it’s vital to be vigilant of any fraudulent request for payment from individuals claiming to be TV Licensing officials.
“If you have family or friends over 75, please check in with them to find out if they need further support – you may very well help them avoid an unnecessary bill.”