Letters - Tuesday, January 21, 2020
Honour your word... save free TV licence
Re: Pensioners calling on Prime Minister Boris Johnson to keep his pre-election promise and retain free TV licences for over 75s.
As the clock ticks down to the May 31 deadline when the universal benefit, first introduced in 1999, is scrapped, the North West Regional Pensioners Association (NWRPA) says the PM must act fast. We appeal to the Prime Minister to be true to his word and save this vital benefit. Isolation and loneliness are huge issues for older people. For many, their TV is their window on the world and the only company they have. With more than 2m living below the poverty line, they simply can’t afford £154.40 for a TV licence.
Mr Johnson is on record as saying it was “crucial” to retain the benefit and he aimed to thrash out a new funding formula with the BBC, which was passed the £745m bill for the benefit by the Government. Speaking last November, he said he would hold talks with the BBC as the issue needed “sorting out urgently”.
However, in an interview with the BBC (January 14) – the PM’s first of 2020 – he made no mention of the issue.
The BBC says it cannot afford to fund all free licences for over 75s and plans to means-test older people by giving it only to those who receive Pension Credit.
The NWRPA strongly believes the Government, not the BBC, has responsibility for funding the free over 75s licence as part of a wider package of universal pensioner benefits in lieu of a decent state pension.
We call on the Government to respect this and take the free licence back under the benefits umbrella as a matter of urgency to give peace of mind to those worried about how they will manage to pay.
Research by Age UK, working alongside the National Pensioners Convention to campaign for free TV licences for all over 75s, shows many people will fall through the means-testing net, and that 50,000 could be pushed below the poverty line if the BBC plan goes ahead.
The charity says more than 2m over 75s will have to go without TV or cut back on heating and food in order to remain informed, entertained, stimulated and connected to the world beyond their doorstep.
Age UK has sent a petition of 634,334 signatures to 10 Downing Street to call for the free licence to be saved.
North West Regional
Importance of League at hospital
I am delighted that entertainment is returning to Clifton Hospital.
Clifton Hospital was originally an independent Community Hospital for the residents of Lytham St Annes following the closure of St Annes War Memorial Hospital and I was delighted to join the original Clifton League of Friends Committee under the Chairmanship of the former Fylde Mayor, the late Joan Mason, in the late 1980s, prior to the hospital’s official opening in 1988.
The League was an independent fundraising and volunteer arm dedicated to the local residents who went into Clifton Hospital. Many relatives of patients donated to the League as a thank you for their work.
The aim of the League in those days, and for a considerable number of years, was to provide little luxuries for the patients that the hospital’s budget could not stretch to and we worked very closely with the then Matron, Miss Elizabeth Lamb, and all her staff to provide what was required. This included greeting visitors as they arrived and directing them to the correct ward, driving visitors to and from the hospital, looking after plants and the much appreciated flowers on the wards, befriending patients who had very few visitors, running a library service and also from time to time providing equipment or furnishings that were needed, but the hospital had no monies available to buy. Members also visited with Father Christmas on Christmas day and gave out presents to all patients and to the hardworking staff. All this was done by a dedicated volunteer group of over 130 people who also helped to fundraise many tens of thousands of pounds over the years.
However, the most important feature provided by the League of Friends was a regular ‘Social Evening’ where the Day Hospital was turned into an Entertainment Venue and patients and their guests were invited to listen to music provided by volunteer singers and pianists, join in sing-a-longs, play old fashioned pub games and take part in quizzes. Refreshments and nibbles were provided and if a patient was celebrating a birthday, there would certainly be cake! Dietary needs were monitored by staff but everyone had a great time and if patients could not get to the Day Hospital, we went to them. The hospital atmosphere in those days was one of fun and friendliness and the monthly ‘Social’ was looked forward to by many. A piano was available and a local pianist would regularly go into the hospital and play for the patients and visitors.
This sadly all disappeared some time ago when Clifton Hospital was absorbed by the Blackpool Hospitals Trust and the Day Hospital was closed. The use of the hospital changed to accommodate clinics and it was no longer the independent community hospital originally envisaged and a number of the volunteer activities disappeared. Those involved in the original League included staff member Pam Young, Susan Fazackerley and her sister Linda, Patricia and Katie Fieldhouse and many others too numerous to mention, who all worked tirelessly to support the Matron and staff. The League is still in existence, although it is now overseen by the Blue Skies Charity at Victoria Hospital.
Clifton Hospital has had a lively and vibrant League from its inception who offered the same kind of entertainment and that this is not a totally new idea.
Patients and staff can only benefit from this type of venture and I wish Alma Stewart every success in taking this forward.
Linda Beddows MBE