The BBC has been urged to save free TV licences for over-75s, with campaigners saying payment plans as they stand could pose a health risk.

The corporation has delayed the introduction of means-testing until the start of August because of the pandemic.

Age UK has called on the BBC to “scrap its charging plan entirely and sit down with (Government) ministers to agree a different approach so these licences can stay free”.

The charity said the BBC’s proposed replacement plan “would inadvertently place some older people at heightened risk of contracting” coronavirus.

Pensioners Sue, David, Radha and Tony outside 10 Downing Street
Pensioners Sue, David, Radha and Tony outside 10 Downing Street (Georgia Scott/Age UK/PA)

The processes “envisaged contravene the official advice the Government has issued”, it added.

The charity cited proposals on how to send in evidence of receipt of pension credit to quality for a free TV licence.

“The leaflet about the BBC’s new scheme advised older people that they could get this photocopied at their local corner shop, or public library, and yet older people who are shielding are still being advised to avoid all shops, while meanwhile libraries remain closed,” Age UK said.

Age UK’s charity director Caroline Abrahams said: “Keeping TV licences free for our over-75s is more important than ever before now, because older people are relying on their TV for news, for the latest information about staying safe, and for entertainment to distract them from the anxiety and sadness so many feel.

“For the sake of older people’s health as well as their wellbeing it is imperative that free TV licences for our over-75s are retained. The last thing anyone in the BBC or Government wants, I am sure, is to add to the risks of any older person contracting this deadly virus and yet, as it stands, the BBC’s replacement scheme look like doing precisely this.”

A BBC spokesman said: “As we have previously said, due to the exceptional circumstances, the BBC board decided to delay the start date of the new policy.

“We will of course continue to keep the issue – and how we best help older people claim a free licence – under review, as the situation evolves.”