Loneliness is a growing problem for the UK’s pensioners, and for some a television is their only means of connecting with the outside world. Imposing BBC TV License fees forces many to have to choose between loneliness and heating or food.
This should not be the case in 2019. This affects nearly 7000 of my constituents, around 3700 of whom will be part of the 50,000 that Age UK have said will be driven into poverty by the TV License Fees.
I am deeply disappointed that the UK Government did not stick to last years’ election manifesto of safeguarding free TV Licenses for over 75s, predicating it on Pension Credit, which is not easily accessible to many older people.
I have spoken on this in Parliament on more than one occasion, calling on the Government to take responsibility for failing our elderly population, to stop passing the buck to the BBC and reverse the decision to charge over 75s for a TV license.
SNP MPs will demand the licence fee is set independently of the UK government to stop a repeat of the “game-playing” around free licences for over 75s. We will also support the urgent reversal of the decision to make pensioners pay and demand that the UK Government fully fund licences for over 75s.
These pledges are just one part of a wider package of support for older people in the SNP manifesto, including a commitment to oppose plans to raise the retirement age to 68, reversing cuts to Pension Credit and securing pension justice for women short-changed by increases in the pension age.
But more broadly, we need to stop future governments from similar game playing and have the licence fee set independently of government.