Getting Help With The Cost Of Switching To Digital TV

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Switching To Digital Television

In case you haven't realised it yet, every TV viewer in the UK will soon be forced to 'Go Digital' and, for some of us, that day will come sooner rather than later. I won't be covering Digital TV Switchover in great detail here as it is the subject of one of my  other guides but suffice it to say if you don't do something pretty soon you may not be getting any television at all!

If, like me, you are old enough to remember when Channel Five went on air you might recall the army of engineers who visited every household in the UK to retune television sets, video recorders, microwave ovens etc. so we could enjoy the quality delights of the UK's fifth television channel. Unfortunately, things are very different this time round and, sadly, some people are already taking advantage of the elderly and vunerable to make a quick profit for themselves - see my  other guide for some examples of these despicable practices.

Can Anybody Help?

In short, Maybe.
I recently discovered it is possible for some people to be upgraded to Digital TV at a greatly reduced cost or in certain cases for free. Yes, that's right, it might not cost you anything to switch to Digital TV!

I have written this guide to inform people about the Digital UK Help Scheme which aims to assist some of the more vunerable members of society in the Digital TV Switchover process. So, if you are in receipt of certain state benefits (see below) you could be entitled to have one television set in your home upgraded to receive Digital TV - in this case Freeview - for a low fixed fee or, if you are on a very low income, for free.

The Digital UK Help scheme

The Digital Switchover Help Scheme provides practical help for those people the Government expects to have the most difficulty in making the switch to digital TV. Some 7 million households are expected to qualify for help and those who are eligible will be sent more details well before their area switches to digital.

The Scheme will be funded through the TV Licence fee and although the BBC will be responsible for delivering the Scheme the day to day operation will be contracted out. DSHS Ltd - a subsidiary of the BBC - will ensure the chosen contractor delivers the scheme as set out in the Scheme Agreement and on 11 February 2008, it was announced that eaga plc had been selected as the preferred supplier to deliver the Help Scheme. Further details can be found in the BBC press release on the BBC website

Government research has identified certain groups who are most likely to struggle with the Digital TV Switchover process (see below). Those groups are eligible for assistance under the Help Scheme and will be contacted directly and invited to apply for help at the appropriate time.

Who Is Eligible?

Assistance will be offered to all households in which one person:
  • Is aged 75 years or over; or
  • Has a significant disability and is in receipt of Disability Living Allowance or Attendance Allowance; or
  • Is registered blind or partially sighted
People will be eligible if they meet any of the above criteria at any time during the nine-month period starting eight months before switchover is completed in their TV region.

What Help Is Available?

Eligible households will be offered a choice of options for getting Digital TV services, largely dependant on what services are available in their region. Help will include providing the necessary equipment to convert one television set. The equipment will be designed with the user's needs in mind. If necessary, the Scheme will also help with installation and use of equipment, and provide an aerial replacement.

Households will be able to choose:
  • A terrestrial digital TV (Freeview) box provided by the scheme and, if required, help to install and use it
  • A digital television recorder or an integrated digital TV for an extra cost
  • A free satellite service for an extra cost
  • Some money off a subscription service, such as Sky, Virgin Media or BT Vision

How much does it cost?

There will be a £40 charge for the basic equipment and help which represents a considerable saving on the full cost of the service provided.

However there will be no charge where the qualifying person or their partner is also in receipt of an income-related benefit ( Income Support or Income Based Job Seeker's Allowance) or Pension Credit (both guaranteed and savings credit in pension credit).

More Information

Further information about the Help Scheme can be found at and if you don't qualify for assistance under the Help Scheme other sources of help can be found in the following section.

Other Sources Of Help

Inevitably there will be people who are not eligible for assistance under the Help Scheme but who may still need some extra help with the Digital TV Switchover process. Fear not, help may be at hand!

On 18 February 2008, Digtal UK announced a £2.9m contract with Digital Outreach Ltd, a company set up by leading UK charities Age Concern England, Help the Aged, Community Service Volunteers and Collective Enterprises, a company specialising in working with the charity sector, to commission a range of support services from local and regional voluntary sector organisations and charities. Digital Outreach Ltd aims to assist older people who are under 75, those with sensory, mobility or dexterity impairments, people with learning disabilities and those who are socially isolated.

Digital UK's voluntary sector network will also aim to offer tailored advice to all those who might face particular difficulties with switchover.

For further information please contact Digital Outreach Ltd directly
  • by telephone on 01457 891912
  • by email at
  • or via their website at

In Closing...

If you have a friend or relative who might qualify for assistance under the scheme and would otherwise be unable to afford the cost of switching to Digital TV make sure they are aware of the help available to them particularly if they are elderly or otherwise vunerable. The last thing I would want is for someone to con them into spending money they neither have nor can afford to lose so make sure they get the help they are entitled to...

If you are interested in Digital TV and the Switchover process I have written two other guides on this topic which you may find helpful; " Digital Switchover, Freeview et al. " and " The Great Big Digital TV Switchover Rip Off! ". Read and enjoy!

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