More than 50,000 older people could be pushed into poverty and loneliness if the BBC scraps free television licences for the over-75s, Age UK has warned.
The broadcaster has been considering plans to abolish the scheme, which has been in place since 2000, after announcing in November that it could not sustain the funding anymore.
Free licenses could cost the BBC as much as £745m by 2022 and a report last year suggested older people may be in a better position to afford them than other age groups.
But Caroline Abrahams (pictured), Age UK’s charity director, said the ‘stereotype’ that older are better off financially was not true, with most ‘living on quite modest incomes’.
With nearly a third of older people living in poverty or just above the threshold in the UK, Abrahams warned those who would struggle to afford a licence might cut back on essentials, such as heating and food.
She said: ‘Millions of older people, particularly those who are lonely or housebound with disabilities, rely on their TV as their trusted companion and window on the world, and it would be cruel indeed to undermine this in any way.’