There’s talk in the media again surrounding the arguments for and against a Household Levy to replace the TV License.
I haven’t had a television for years now, and only watch ‘catch up TV’ at the weekends – sometimes not at all. Not that it would make a difference; I could quite legally have a TV that is connected to the internet and do the same. It’s watching live TV that’s illegal, and it’s been the case as long as I’ve known.
Years ago, if I felt television was becoming a problem in the family – much to my daughters’ distress – I would ditch the license, and we’d just watch dvds, but mostly we played games, did activities together and read. Later when I had a Sky TV I’d only watch what I recorded anyway, but I was finding that I was including more and more rubbish, so in the end I decided to get rid of my TV and sky package. I’d also finished work through ill health, and due to how claimants get needled about having sky TV, at least I could say that I didn’t have either a television or Sky subscription!
I could have easily paid for a TV license though, and I must admit, that if the license changed to a subscription, I would be happy to pay it, even though I only spend a few hours a week watching BBC programmes. I’d be worried though that I’d be tempted to start watching live TV again. What concerns me more, is that for claimants receiving Job Seeker’s Allowance who are already paying bedroom tax and/or council tax, it will become an impossible situation. In theory, for bedroom/council tax, you can at least claim a Discretionary Housing Allowance (many get refused), but that won’t cover a TV License or a Household levy: there would be no way out of paying it. I too may end up in that situation. In fact, some disability claimants are going without any income at all for a year or more until appeals are held, and some if successful aren’t even being back-paid.
People are already being jailed for not paying the new court charge, which is charged for all kinds of things, not just TV License evasion but nevertheless for petty crimes as well as the more serious crown court cases. We’ve heard recently of magistrates resigning because of ridiculous situations where homeless people with no income – and no doubt sanctioned claimants/disabled who have no income – have the court charge applied, but they obviously can’t pay it because they have no income!
Unlike some other debts, the court charges aren’t written off even if you are jailed, so there’s a real potential that the debt will rise exponentially as it goes through the usual non-payment process: the non payer is released from jail; the non payer still hasn’t enough income to pay the debt; the Bailiff attends; claimant can’t pay and all assets were stripped from the house and sold previously; additional bailiff fees are added; after non-payment, the case will go to court and costs/charges will be added again; the person can’t pay so they are jailed a second time; the claimant is released, and the process will start all over.
We’ve heard no end of tragic stories with regard to the bedroom tax and council tax, but the difference with the Household Levy is that it will affect ALL poor households, and those claiming J.S.A. will become especially affected by this, since their benefit rate is already set at starvation levels as it it, and of course, those claiming Employment Support Allowance and who are in the Work Related Activity Group, are also having their benefit cut to the same rate as those on J.S.A. in 2017.
When basic benefits don’t cover a person’s outgoings, then it’s hardly the fault of the claimant if they can’t pay those outgoings. It reminds me of medieval times, when the crops failed but villagers were still expected to pay a tax levy, but tax out of what exactly? The creeping legislation that forces people to pay bills when they haven’t the income is criminalising poverty.
One can only hope that the court and prison system will break down completely under the weight of so many cases (but don’t worry, the government will have an answer for that: bring in the private sector).
Along with tax credit cuts for the low paid from 2016 then, our government has devised the perfect poverty trap, where neither wages or benefits cover household bills – bills that you can’t lower by cutting down your usage like power and telephone. Consequently, in the 7th richest country in the world, this government and the last have brought about a situation where people are genuinely becoming just too poor to live.
What will become of them or me, who knows? Just for the sake of television: how twisted is that?