This piece first appeared in The Daily Telegraph on 18 March 2000
The text here may not be identical to the published text

Live-in oldies bring their rewards

Free TV licences

Families who have an elderly relative living with them will qualify for a free television licence from November 1st on an equal footing with genuine pensioner households. The details of the promise of free licences, made by Chancellor Gordon Brown in his Pre-Budget Statement last November, were quietly published recently on the day the BBC was told it could have an inflation-busting £3 rise in the price of a £101 colour television licence from April.

The new rules mean that any household where someone aged 75 or more is living will get a free colour TV licence from November 1st this year. A total of three million households – about one in every seven – will benefit at a cost of more than £300 million a year to the Government, which will reimburse the BBC for the lost revenue.

The Department of Culture, Media and Sport has confirmed that all households where someone over 75 lives will get the free licence even where younger relatives have been paying for it so far – as long as they ensure the licence is in the older person’s name from November.

Where a licence has already been bought, a refund will be paid for each whole month it is due to run after November 1st. The refund will be paid to eligible households even if the current licence is in the name of a younger person. The new price of a colour TV licence will be £104 from April 1st and the refund of £8.66 will be paid for each whole month between the end of the old one and November 1st. The Government has warned that refunds could take some time to deal with – people should expect to wait until Christmas and some may have to be patient until March next year. New powers will be given to TV Licensing – which collects the fee on behalf of the BBC - to check Department of Social Security records to reduce problems of proving age and eligibility.

From April, customers who will be 75 before November 1st will be able to buy a ‘short-term’ licence to take them up to that date at a price of £8.66 per whole month. People who become 75 after that date will also be able to buy a short-term licence for the period between their old licence expiring and their 75th birthday. However, licences will still run only for whole months, so the free licence will not actually start until the 1st of the month AFTER the person’s 75th birthday. Those with birthdays early in the month will lose out.

Refunds will also be paid in future to people who buy a whole year’s licence and then become entitled to a free one – either because of a 75th birthday or when an elderly relative moves in. Those refunds will be the responsibility of TV Licensing. A spokeswoman confirmed that refunds will be given for whole months only and promised

"We will be contacting every single household who has a licence to tell them about the new arrangements and explain that if there is a 75-year-old living there they can get a free licence from November. We will hope to make the whole thing crystal clear to everyone."

TV Licensing also warns that although the licence is free, it still has to be obtained and owning a television without a licence is still an offence carrying a maximum fine of £1000.

There are special arrangements for people who have bought TV licence stamps from the Post Office. If someone already has more stamps than they need to buy a short-term licence between now and November 1st they can get a refund. That is obtained by sending the stamps back to TV Licensing in Bristol. The Department of Culture, Media and Sport warns "TV Licensing recommends that stamps are sent by registered mail, as they are a cash equivalent."

Sadly, the Department seems a little behind the times. Registered post was ended some years ago. The only way to send money safely through the mail- with insurance against loss - is to use Special Delivery. For a small envelope containing TV Licence stamps, that will cost £3.35, rising to £3.50 from April 3rd

In another change, announced at the same time, a household with a registered blind person in it will in future have to pay only half the standard price for a television licence. Currently, blind people get a flat-rate £1.25 discount. But from April, when the licence goes up, they will only be charged half the new fee for a colour or black and white licence. As that will be £34.50 from April, the cost for a blind person could be just £17.25 a year.

Anyone needing more information can ring a special helpline at TV Licensing on 0845 602 3334. Some details are available and operators will take names and addresses to send out a leaflet which is currently being prepared. Calls are charged at local rates

18 March 2000

go back to The Daily Telegraph front page

go back to the Writing Archive front page

go back to the Paul Lewis front page

e-mail Paul Lewis on

All material on these pages is © Paul Lewis 2000