Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport
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Digital Switchover Bill receives Royal Assent

Digital Switchover Bill receives Royal Assent

DEPARTMENT FOR CULTURE, MEDIA AND SPORT News Release (071\2007) issued by The Government News Network on 18 June 2007

The Digital Switchover (Disclosure of Information) Bill - which allows social security information to be disclosed to the BBC to help target those who will benefit from the Digital Switchover Help Scheme - received Royal Assent earlier today.

The Act will allow the Department for Work and Pensions to disclose limited information about over-75-year-olds and people in receipt of disability benefits with the BBC, to allow targeted assistance with the switch to digital television.

Broadcasting Minister Shaun Woodward said:

"This is a significant milestone towards the switch to digital television for all. The measures in the Act will make it easier for vulnerable people to get help with switchover. They won't have to go through a lengthy claims process to get help, but at the same time their right to privacy is safeguarded."

The Government wants all households to benefit from digital TV. Key to this is ensuring that everyone has a choice of digital TV options that they can afford. This can only be achieved through a universal switchover from analogue to digital signals. The process of digital switchover will take place by ITV region between 2008 and 2012, with Whitehaven in Cumbria being the first town to switch this October.

A help scheme, which the BBC will establish and fund, will provide practical help with the transition for people 75 and over or with a significant disability. An estimated seven million UK households will qualify for assistance from the Digital Switchover Help Scheme between 2008 and 2012.

The measures allowing information sharing to identify those eligible for help are supported by organisations representing vulnerable groups, including the Digital Switchover Consumer Experts Group, which includes Help the Aged, Age Concern, the National Consumer Council, Sense, Community Service Volunteers , Royal National Institute for the Blind, Royal National Institute for the Deaf and the National Association of Citizens Advice Bureaux.

Notes to editors

1. The Digital Switchover (Disclosure of Information) Bill was introduced into Parliament on 16 November 2006. It covers the United Kingdom with provisions to extend the Bill to the Isle of Man. It creates, within narrowly defined limits, legal authority for the disclosure of social security information.

2. The Help Scheme will cover:

* all households with one person aged 75 or over;

* all households with one person with a severe disability. (This will be defined as having an award of the following social security benefits: disability living allowance (including where the qualifying person is a child), attendance allowance, equivalents under the industrial injuries disablement benefit scheme and pre-2005 war pension schemes); and

* all households where one person is registered blind or registered partially sighted where this is the case in the relevant qualifying period. Help will be available free of charge to all qualifying households; other households will pay a charge of £40.

3. The BBC already has access to some social security data under the Television Licences (Disclosure of Information) Act 2000 - this allows the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) to disclose data to help administer the 75+ TV Licence Fee Concession Scheme

4. Television signals to Whitehaven will switch from analogue to digital on October 17 with the remaining analogue channels on November 14.

5. On 29 May the BBC announced that it had appointed Capita to run the help scheme in Whitehaven. The DCMS agreement with the BBC on the Digital Switchover Help Scheme was published on Friday 4 May. The agreement means that the BBC Executive will now manage the contractor who will be responsible for delivering the Digital Switchover Help Scheme.

6. Recognising that the legislation would not be in place before the eligibility period in Whitehaven began, Digital UK wrote to everyone in Whitehaven in March 2007 to ask them if they are eligible for help under the scheme. Once the Bill comes into effect, social security information can be disclosed to Capita subject to final discussions on DWP's security requirements. The initial responses will be cross-checked with DWP data to confirm that people are eligible and they will receive assistance in due course.

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