TV licence officials 'terrorising' over-75s as man with Alzheimer's confronted at home
TV licence officials are “terrorising” over-75s who have been stripped of free licences.
Letters sent by Capita, the firm that enforces the licensing system, to people who have not paid up, say a probe is under way and a visit has been authorised, accompanied by threats of a £1,000 fine.
Letters are addressed to “the occupier”. Campaign group Silver Voices says it is a “ruse” to create fear and has left people feeling dehumanised.
It added it has received hundreds of angry messages from over-75s saying they received a personally addressed letter in July from the BBC about their licence being cancelled, followed months later by enforcement threats to “the occupier”.
Silver Voices said: “Capita is pretending it doesn’t know who lives [there] to terrorise older people.”
SV director Dennis Reed said the firm is trying to “frighten people already reeling from the cost of living crisis”.
Labour peer Lord George Foulkes called Capita’s actions “despicable”.
Millions were robbed of the £159 per year benefit after the Tories broke a 2017 manifesto pledge to preserve the lifeline. The BBC, which now has responsibility for funding it, brought in means-testing.
An estimated 3.7 million over-75s now have to pay for it. Asked about Silver Voices’ claims, the BBC provided a TV Licensing statement saying it is “supporting” over-75s “to get correctly licensed”.
It added: “It is standard practice that if we know or suspect there has been a change of occupier..., or where we have no details, we address our correspondence to ‘the occupier’.” Capita said it had “nothing to add”.
The Government said the BBC “should be supporting people affected by its decision to stop funding free licence fees for over-75s and treat them with the utmost sensitivity”.
Visit dismays wife of man who has Alzheimer's
Fiona Ayres thought the woman at the door was a pharmacy worker dropping off medication for her 84-year-old husband Peter who has Alzheimer’s.
Fiona, who had buzzed her into the block of flats, was shocked when the woman said it was about the TV licence.
The visit left Fiona “extremely upset”. She believes five letters about the TV licence have arrived since the benefit was scrapped in 2020.
Previously they were addressed to her husband. But the most recent, delivered last month, was to “the occupier”. It warns: “An investigation into your property has begun.”
The threat of a £1,000 fine for non-payment is circled in red and the letter says: “Visit being authorised.”
She added the visit came after Peter had been to see a mental health doctor and was “very upset”.
Fiona said her husband, who ran a furniture business, is a Tory voter and the couple, from Ayrshire, are refusing to pay on principle because the Conservatives promised that the licence would remain free for over-75s.
The Mirror is campaigning to restore free TV licences to all over-75s.