Television is a key source of entertainment for many of us, but particularly for the elderly, writes Gloria De Piero MP.
The Campaign to End Loneliness recently found that 40 per cent of older people say that TV is their main source of company.
So imagine my anger when it became clear that free TV licences for over-75s are under threat.
The Government has devolved the responsibility - and the cost - of the licences to the BBC, meaning that the BBC is having to make tough decisions about whether free TV licenses, introduced by Labour in 2002, will still be available.
The cost of funding the free licenses is equivalent to a fifth of the BBC’s budget.
It isn’t hard to imagine how serious an impact taking on this cost would have on the quality of the service the BBC provides.
Faced with the possible loss of the free licenses, Age UK has said that more than two million over-75s would have to go without TV or cut back on other essentials like heating or food in order to pay for their own.
In Ashfield, nearly 7,000 people could lose their licence, costing local older people more than £1 million.
Even in the BBC’s proposed ‘best case scenario’, where the qualifying age is raised to 80, nearly 3,000 Ashfield residents would still lose their free licence.
Together with changes being made to pension credit, this Government is taking nearly a billion pounds directly out of pensioners’ pockets and it is a scandal.
Recent analysis by Which? has revealed that cash machines are disappearing at a rate of 488 per month.
Combined with the closure of more than 3,300 bank branches nationwide since 2015 and it’s clear that accessing cash is becoming increasingly difficult.
There is evidence of this in any town in the country – just walk down Kirkby’s high street and you still see the empty buildings that used to house Natwest and Barclays.
We might be heading towards a cashless society, but we are some way off that yet, so it is vital that we find a way to make getting money out easier, particularly for our older people and those in more isolated communities.