Portsmouth South MP Stephen Morgan has made renewed calls on government to halt the withdrawal of the TV licence for over 75s, joining a cross party group in sending a targeted letter to the Culture Secretary.
The action follows the city MP’s successful campaign urging government to delay the removal of the benefit on the 16 March.
The group is seeking an indefinite suspension of the benefit roll back, citing the fact elderly people are currently confined to their homes due to the pandemic as the driving force.
Mr Morgan said:
“While I welcome government taking heed of our action and postponing the roll back of this vital social benefit for over 75s, this does not go far enough in solving the issue.
Current projections suggest that the Covid-19 pandemic could go on for some time. We cannot have a situation where government is confining over 75s to their homes but taking away, what is for some, their only source of information and contact with the outside world.
Government must accept that removing a benefit from the group most at risk during a pandemic is unacceptable. I will continue to work with others, from across the House, to be a voice for our older community members.”
In 2017, the Conservatives stood on a manifesto that pledged not to touch benefits for the elderly. In November 2019, they went back on this promise and Government forced through policy that saw the free TV licence snatched away from over 75s.
The results are 1.3 million of the poorest over 75s left with another big bill to contend with. 3 million households worse off, and 500,000 people living with dementia facing a new difficult bill.
Mr Morgan added:
“Prior to Covid-19 I listened to organisations such as Age UK and Portsmouth Pensioners Association, as well as wrote out to 10,000 people locally affected.
The reports then suggested that taking away this vital benefit would plunge more older people into social isolation and cause financial difficulty for those forced to choose between food and company.
These factors are now even more relevant as people are confined to their homes, community meetings suspended and loved ones prohibited from visiting relatives who are not in their household.
I will continue to fight for the continuation of the universally free TV licence for the over 75s on the grounds that it is a vital lifeline for many valued older community members.”
Stephen Morgan MP has been taking action on this issue since government first suggested the removal in 2019. Since then Mr Morgan has written out to constituents, hosted meetings with local organisations and Age UK, written to three separate government Culture Secretaries, raised the issue in parliament, conducted survey research in Portsmouth and joined cross party lobbying.