The universal free TV licence for over-75s was scrapped at the beginning of August and the BBC is now means-testing the entitlement. But Age UK has hit out at the broadcaster warning hundreds of thousands of pensioners will struggle to pay the £157.50 fee.
The charity added that it has already heard from some over-75s who will have to spend less on food or heating to cover the cost.
Age UK urged the Government and the BBC to work together to find a way to keep TV licences free for all over-75s.
Caroline Abrahams, charity director at Age UK, told Express.co.uk: “There is no doubt that hundreds of thousands of our over-75s will find it really tough to pay for a TV licence from now on.
“Some have contacted us to tell us about the ‘trade-offs’ they may have to make, between say buying a licence or spending a little more every week on food, or on heating through the cold winter months.
“We think it’s dreadful that anyone should be put in that position at this time of life.
“Even now though it is not too late for the Government to come together with the BBC and agree a solution which keeps these licences free.
“It would definitely be the decent thing for them to do.”
Under the changes, over-75s must receive pension credit to get a free TV licence.
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But the broadcaster has insisted it cannot afford to continue the universal entitlement.
The changes to free TV licences for over-75s came into force on August 1 after being delayed for two months due to the coronavirus crisis.
A BBC spokesperson said: “It was the Government who decided to stop funding free TV licence fees for the over-75s.
“The BBC isn’t making any judgements about who is or isn’t poor, as the Government sets the criteria for pension credit eligibility.
“The 75+ Plan can help older customers moving from a free TV licence to a licence that they pay for, allowing them to make equal weekly, fortnightly or monthly instalments from around £3 per week, without the need for upfront or lump sum payments.
“We have provided a free telephone information line where customers can access recorded information on the new policy by calling 0800 232 1382, and information can also be found on the TV licensing website.”
A spokesperson for the Department for Digital, Culture, Media & Sport said: “We are disappointed with the BBC’s decision to restrict the over-75 licence fee concession to those in receipt of pension credit, and not to delay these changes coming into force in light of the pandemic.
“People across the country value television as a way to stay connected and the BBC must now introduce further ways to support older people, including helping them through this transition.”