Politics

Suspend ‘cruel’ visits by licence fee snoopers, OAPs tell BBC

TV licence: Dennis Reed criticises ‘stupid’ BBC plan

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Director general Tim Davie was told some TV licensing officials have turned up at the homes of ­pensioners ­without masks and have failed to observe social distancing. But the corporation is continuing its so-called customer care visits to senior citizens who have refused to pay the £159-a-year charge since it was introduced last summer. Silver Voices director Dennis Reed said: “It is unconscionable that the BBC intends to plough ahead with its cruel visits to vulnerable older people just before Christmas.

“These now present real dangers to physical, as well as mental, health.

“It is too late for an older person to ask that the officer puts on a mask when they are already standing on the doorstep introducing themselves.

“It would be best if the BBC ­recognised the threats of transmitting the new variant to older people and suspended such visits until the peak has subsided.

“Failing that, however, the BBC must ensure that their operatives wear masks at all times, when visiting older people, and, like social care staff, be fully vaccinated.

“I seriously question the morality of BBC executives in continuing to pursue vulnerable older people, many with dementia, in these dangerous times. 

This is now a public service with no executive heart.” A recent survey of more than 1,000 Silver Voices members found that a third are still shielding. In autumn, TV licensing officials started calling at homes of over-75s who have held out against the annual fee.

The BBC insists the visits are not enforcement action, but help explain all the options available, including how to spread the cost of the fee.

Around 4.2 million pensioners were hit by the rule change last summer. Those who claim pension credit are exempt from paying. Some 250,000 over-75s are refusing to pay.

A TV Licensing spokesman said: “We have closely followed ­govern- ment guidance throughout the pandemic and will continue to do so.

“Our advisers get safety training, are equipped with PPE and must wear face ­coverings if invited indoors by a customer. Visits are ­ongoing, but they will pause over the Christmas period in line with our normal practice.”

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