If you’ve been following the news, you’d be forgiven for thinking that the government has decided to mount a sustained assault on its pensioners. Setting the social care crisis to one side, two recent policy changes give rise for concern.
In May, changes to Pension Credit, one of the most under-claimed benefits, saw mixed age couples lose around £7,000 in annual income. And in June, the BBC confirmed that it would cease to fund free TV licences for all 3.7 million over 75s and would restrict the benefit to the UK’s poorest pensioners, those in receipt of Pension Credit.
The scrapping of the over 75s licence fee concession is one of the cruellest and most unnecessary benefit cuts to be carried out by this government because it will hit the housebound, the frail and disabled and the most socially isolated people hardest.
New figures acquired by the Labour Party show that 11,688 people aged 100 years old or more, 109,083 people aged 95 plus and 469,622 people aged over 90 will be adversely affected by this callous policy. As many elderly people are already struggling to survive on incredibly tight incomes, they simply won’t buy a TV licence next year.
Loneliness and social isolation are expected to soar. One in four over 65s say television is their main source of companionship, so losing this lifeline will have a devastating impact on their mental health. The NHS could see its scarce resources stretched beyond breaking point trying to cope with the many seniors who’ve been plunged into depression because their main means of contact with the outside world has been stripped from them.
The one silver lining in this sorry saga is that the BBC has agreed to publicise Pension Credit and its link to a free TV licence. Take-up of the benefit is expected to rise by 250,000, giving those who apply for it an extra £65 a week to live on as well as a free TV licence.
Interestingly, the Office for Budget Responsibility said an “unintended consequence” of offloading the funding for the over 75s free TV licences onto the BBC was that it will cost the government £850m, as more people will sign up to Pension Credit. That’s £100m more than it costs to provide the free TV licences. Let’s hope a re-think of this policy is imminent.
Reclaim extra payments on your over 75 TV licence
The BBC’s existing policy of refunding viewers who have mistakenly paid for a TV licence when they were entitled to watch TV free of charge will remain in place after 1 June 2020.
Over the past three years, TV Licensing has refunded £38 million to consumers who have been paying for their TV licence, unaware that people who are blind or over the age of 75 can watch TV free. The simplest way to claim a refund, which can be backdated to 1 November 2000, is to call TV Licensing on 0300 790 6130.
You will need to have your National Insurance number and personal details to hand. After submitting your request, TV Licensing will work out how much you are owed and repay you within 21 days via bank transfer or cheque. Once you have received your refund, you should cancel any direct debit you have set up.
Consumers with Power of Attorney for a licence holder can also claim on their behalf. TV Licensing will also issue refunds to the estate of a deceased person who paid for a TV licence when they should have received one free. For more information and to submit a claim online, visit www.tvlicensing.co.uk.
What is Pension Credit and how do I claim it?
Pension Credit was introduced in 2003 by Gordon Brown, then chancellor of the exchequer, to lift some of the UK’s poorest pensioners out of poverty. It is a means-tested benefit which tops up the weekly incomes of single pensioners and pensioner couples to £167.25 and £225.25 respectively. It is made up of two components: Guarantee Credit and Savings Credit.
Savings Credit is available to people who reached state pension age before 6th April 2016 who have some savings. From April 2019, it will pay £13.72 per week to single pensioners and £15.35 per week to pensioner couples.
Every year, far fewer pensioners than those who are eligible for Pension Credit claim the benefit because they either do not know that it exists or do not realise that they are entitled to it. During the 2017/2018 financial year, around 1.3m people aged 65 plus failed to claim it, saving the DWP an estimated £3.5 billion that year.
If you are aged 65 or older, single and are living on less than £167.25 a week, or if you are part of a pensioner couple living on less than £225.25 a week, you should claim Pension Credit.
Your application can be backdated by three months. You will need your National Insurance number, bank account details, information about your income, pension, housing costs, savings and investments.
Remember, if you or someone in your household is aged 75 plus who can demonstrate that they are in receipt of Pension Credit, you will receive a free TV licence.
For more information and further help, speak to an adviser from Age UK by calling 0800 678 160 or from Independent Age by calling 0800 319 6789. An adviser from the Pension Service can be reached by calling 0800 99 1234.