20 June 2007
£1 million worth of digital charges to hit city pensioners and disabled
John Barrett, Liberal Democrat MP for Edinburgh West, today released new figures showing that around 25,000 Edinburgh Households who are eligible for assistance in the switch to digital television will each have to pay £40 to access it, totalling almost £1 million across the city.
Across Edinburgh, 49,000 households will be entitled to help with switchover. This will include providing the necessary equipment to convert one television and help with installation. However, 24,990 of these could end up paying £40 for this help. These households will include people who are over 75 years old or have a significant disability but do not receive income benefits or pension credit.
Under government proposals just 49% of those qualifying for assistance in the Grampian and Scottish TV regions will get the assistance for free – the remaining 51%, will have to pay the fee.
John Barrett said:
“This charge will hit pensioners and disabled people. The government is offering to help them prepare for digital switchover but only if they are prepared to pay £40.
“The 25,000 households who will have to pay for assistance across Edinburgh will doubtless be confused as to why the Government is charging £40 for help and assistance when digital boxes can now be bought for less than £20. This means that vulnerable people who apply for government help could actually be worse off.
“I suspect that the administration involved in collecting these fees will end up costing more than the money they raise. I will be urging the Government to think again about forcing pensioners and people with disabilities to pay this unfair fee.”
1. The digital help scheme is aimed at people aged over 75 and over, people with significant disabilities and people who are registered blind or registered partially sighted. People with significant disabilities are those who receive Attendance Allowance or Disability Living Allowance.
2. According to the Digital UK website there will be a “modest fee” for some households who use the Digital Help Scheme. However, no information is given on the value of this fee on this site.
3. The Digital Switchover Help Scheme gives viewers in Scotland just nine months to register for help - 8 months before switchover, and just one month after analogue signals are switched off.
4. A recent parliamentary answer to Liberal Democrat MP Alistair Carmichael showed that most Scottish household who are entitled to the Digital Switchover Help Scheme will have to pay £40.
4 Jun 2007: Column 96W
Digital Broadcasting: Scotland
Mr. Carmichael: To ask the Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport how many households qualifying for assistance in switching over to digital television in each parliamentary constituency in Scotland will be required to pay a £40 fee to access assistance. 
Mr. Woodward: The information is not available in the form requested.
We estimate about 49 per cent. of Scottish households in the Grampian and Scottish TV regions eligible for help will qualify for free assistance under the Digital Switchover Help Scheme; 51 per cent. of households in the Grampian and Scottish TV regions eligible for help will qualify for assistance to which there is a £40 charge.
For the Border region covering England and Scotland (but excluding Whitehaven and the Isle of Man), we estimate that 41 per cent. of eligible households will qualify for free assistance; 59 per cent. of eligible households will qualify for assistance to which there is a £40 charge.
5. A parliamentary answer to Alistair Carmichael showed that up to 649,000 Scottish households could be entitled to assistance through the Digital Switchover Help Scheme. This is equivalent to 28% of all Scottish households.
Culture, Media and Sport
Mr. Carmichael: To ask the Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport what estimate she has made of the number of households that will qualify for assistance in switching over to digital television in each parliamentary constituency in Scotland; what steps she is taking to ensure that those households which qualify for assistance will receive it; and if she will make a statement. 
Mr. Woodward: Details for each parliamentary constituency in Scotland are in the following table.
The Digital Switchover (Disclosure of Information) Bill was introduced on the 16 November. The Bill would enable the scheme to receive social security information in order to target those eligible for assistance and so help increase take up amongst those eligible. There will also be extensive communications to raise awareness of the assistance available from the help scheme.
We are working closely with the Digital Switchover Consumer Experts Group to explore how best to communicate with eligible groups.
Age Concern, Help the Aged, the National Consumer Council, RNIB and RNID attend these meetings.
9 Jan 2007 : Column 492W (Table also available online)
|Constituency Households (defined as eligible benefit units)|
|Edinburgh North and Leith||9,000|
|Edinburgh South West||10,000|
Therefore, 49,000 households across Edinburgh are eligible to for assistance
51% of 49,000 is 24,990. Therefore 24,990 households in Edinburgh are expected to be required to pay £40 to access assistance.
24,990 x 40 = 999,600. Therefore £999,600 across Edinburgh.
Eligibility for help from the Digital Switchover Help Scheme will be by benefit unit rather than the whole household definition used by the Department for Communities and Local Government (DCLG), the Scottish Executive, the Welsh Assembly Government and the Northern Ireland Office to forecast future household growth.
The definition of a benefit unit is a couple and any dependent children. It excludes adults deemed to be non-dependents who, if eligible, will be able to claim assistance from the Help Scheme in their own right.
In 2006 there were 2,291,575 Scottish households. (see online)