The universal free TV licence for over-75s has come to an end, in what has been called a “sad day for our older population”.
The BBC will now means-test the entitlement, having previously delayed its introduction because of the pandemic.
Over-75s must receive pension credit to receive the free TV licence, which costs £157.50.
Caroline Abrahams, charity director of Age UK, said: “This is a sad day for our older population, many of whom are feeling badly let down by both the Government and the BBC over the demise of these free licences.”
She said that “more than half a million of the poorest pensioners will still have to pay for a licence, cut spending on other essentials like food or heating, give up TV altogether or keep watching without a licence, in breach of the law” because they still do not qualify for pension credit.
“It is deplorable that any older person should have to make such a horrible choice.
Some over-75s have an income which “is just a few pounds or even pence too high to qualify them for pension credit, who will find another big bill too much to manage”.
She said: “Many months ago we said that we thought the BBC’s plan would turn out to be a ‘slow motion car crash’ and nothing that has happened since leads us to change our minds.
“As the disastrous impact of the BBC’s plan on some of our ‘oldest old’ becomes apparent over the next few weeks, we hope this will bring the Corporation and the Government back to the table, to find another way to keep TV free for the oldest in our society.”
Age UK is “calling on everyone aged over 75 to see without delay if they are eligible for Pension Credit, if they haven’t already done so.”
The BBC agreed to take on responsibility for funding the scheme as part of the charter agreement hammered out with the Government in 2015.
It has said that it cannot afford to continue the universal entitlement, which would hit “programmes and services”.
TV Licensing says it will write to all over-75 licence holders from August, outlining what action to take.