My Lords, I thank the noble Lord, Lord Foulkes of Cumnock, for giving your Lordships the chance to discuss some of the ways to alleviate loneliness. I shall use my few minutes to concentrate on elderly people with disabilities. What concerns me is that it seems to be the most vulnerable in our society who are selected to have their facilities cut or reduced, causing extra hardship and anxiety on top of challenging situations.
Several years ago my late husband was watching cricket on television when he had a stroke, and he developed diabetes and Parkinson’s. One of his enjoyments continued to be watching cricket on television. Without that, he would have been deprived of his passion.
There are many disabled people living over the age of 75 who have several complex disabilities, many of whom are living alone, having lost a partner or having always been single. Loneliness is a danger.
Disability is expensive. Because of social care being in crisis, many people have to buy in much-needed vital services. One case I know of was a young woman with a child who was stabbed in the neck, rendering her tetraplegic, paralysed from the neck. Now she is older her hands have got contracted. She desperately needs physiotherapy and occupational therapy to stop her hands stiffening completely. Her elderly mother has to pay for this privately as the hospital can no longer supply it.
I agree that for millions of people aged over 75, the TV is their window on the world and their main form of company. Television plays a central role in their lives. If the right to a free TV licence is taken away, the most vulnerable people in our society will suffer. These are the elderly, lonely people with disabilities and long-term conditions such as dementia. I believe many people, hearing about the removal of this benefit of free TV licences for the over-75s, are disgusted. I am pleased that there is such strong support for the elderly people in this country. I hope the Government and the BBC will think again.