Half of OAPs so lonely they rely on TV and pets for company

Half of pensioners rely on their television or pet as their main source of company, says a Sheffield charity.

Thursday, 25th July 2019, 2:28 pm
Updated Friday, 26th July 2019, 3:20 pm
Age UK Sheffield Chief Executive Steve Chu

Half of people aged 65 and over are so isolated from friends and family, they turn to the TV, cats and dogs to ease their loneliness.

The shock figures were disclosed by Age UK Sheffield as it lobbied councillors to support a campaign over free TV licences for over 75s.

Four years ago, the UK Government stopped funding free TV licences for over 75s and gave the BBC the responsibility to decide on the future of the concession.

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The BBC has decided that from June 2020, only households in receipt of Pension Credit will be able to claim a free TV licence. Everyone else will pay £154.50 a year.

But Age UK says the Government, not the BBC, should be responsible for funding free TV licences and making tax and benefit decisions. More than 609,000 people have signed a petition by the charity.

Steve Chu, chief executive of Age UK Sheffield, asked a council’s scrutiny board for its support.

He said: “We feel that the BBC has been put in quite a difficult position. We have asked the Government to intervene and step in, either to end this decision or give extra funding.

“We have done some surveys about loneliness and social isolation and found that 49 per cent of over 65s rely on their television or pet as their main source of company because they live alone and don’t have regular visits from family or neighbours.”

There are almost 44,000 people in the city aged over 75 but less than a quarter currently claim Pension Credit.

Age UK Sheffield wants to encourage more people to claim the benefit and can help people fill in the forms.

Mr Chu added: “The demographic of people most dependent on their TVs are those in more socially deprived areas. We estimate up to 40 per cent of people don’t claim Pension Credit because they are too embarrassed or have tried and been turned down.”

Councillors said they would also encourage people to claim the benefit and support the campaign.

People can claim Pension Credit if they have reached state pension age For single people it’s those on a weekly income of less than £167.75 For couples it’s a weekly income of less than £255.25 Age UK, the Carers Centre, Alzheimers Society and Citizens Advice can all help people claim