You’re sitting in your home, a quiet night in, and there’s a knock at the door. It’s TV Licensing. They’ve seen you watching the telly through the window and there’s no place to hide. You can now look forward to a series of letters inviting you to a local magistrates’ court where you’ll likely be fined £1,000 or may be even face imprisonment.
It’s not like you wanted to skip payments. You wanted to do things by the book. The very last thing you wanted was a court appearance or hefty fine but your income just doesn’t stretch to a licence, especially when the first six months of monthly payments are notoriously the most expensive.
At Christians Against Poverty, we appreciate the complexities of life especially for people on a low income dealing with many issues at once. Of course, the BBC has to be paid for but it does seem that a criminal court process for an unpaid television licence is out of kilter with the way almost all other household bills are processed, Council Tax being the exception.
However, there’s some good news for people on a very low income:
CAP was heavily involved in a pilot scheme called the Simple Payment Plan back in 2018 which is going to be rolled out this Spring. It will mean viewers can save £12.50 a month on that new licence, if they are referred by a registered charity or debt organisation, skipping the usual double monthly payment which is standard practice for the first six months.
The trial period accepted TV viewers from April to September 2018. At CAP, we found this to be really helpful and we referred 130 clients through the scheme. We also put forward our views suggesting some tweaks to make the operation even smoother. This included an advisor helpline so that a debt counsellor, for instance, could find out how far their client’s case had progressed.
Well, we’ve been listened to, so that’s excellent news. So, who will this help?
- People who don’t have a licence
- People who are in the first six months of their licence
- Those in arrears so that the money owed can be spread across the year too
As one debt coach said: ‘I often come across clients, who know they should have a TV licence and are watching TV without one but are afraid to ring and set one up as they know it's another expense they can't afford. They've often heard or know from experience that the installments are more for the first six months and that puts them off.
‘When I explained the simple payment plan, that it's something we could include in their budget and offered to ring up with them, it was such a relief! It removed the pressure of taking the risk of a fine for being caught without a licence.
‘For a lot of clients, freeing up £12.50 a month for other expenses was of huge benefit.’