Pensioners told to ‘pay up’ for their TV licences or face home visits from ‘outreach’ teams

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Pensioners who stand to lose their free TV licences could face home visits from ‘outreach’ teams to make sure they pay up.

The BBC is set to discontinue the benefit for over-75s after having its budget cut by the Government by around a fifth.

Director General Tony Hall.

Director General Tony Hall.

The broadcaster’s director of policy told a Commons select committee the visits would be done synthetically.

Addressing the Digital, Culture, Media and Sport Committee, Clare Sumner said: “We are actually recruiting a specific group of people who will pay support visits to this group with the intention of helping them understand what the system is and how to apply.

“Now that will be a different cohort of people to I think what’s called ‘enquiry officers’ who are the ones who kind of enforce the licence fee.”

Asked committee member MP Brendan O’Hara if she thought the visits would be “traumatic” for elderly people, she said: “They won’t be coming to your door in quite the way you imply.”

Director of policy Clare Sumner.

Director of policy Clare Sumner.

People who stand to lose their licences will be told in two letters first, she said, and the BBC would also offer telephone and face-to-face support.

Addressing the committee earlier BBC’s director general Tony Hall said he initially described the Government’s decision to hand the corporation responsibility for free TV licences for over-75s as “nuclear”. Lord Hall said the BBC had taken the decision to scrap free TV licences “unwillingly”. Free licences were introduced in 2000, but the BBC agreed to take on the cost as part of its renewed charter agreement in 2015 under the new majority Conservative Government.

Lord Hall said it was “made absolutely clear” he had “no option” but to accept the deal. He said: “This was coming to us whether we wanted it or not.”