People over State Pension age could cut broadband bill to £12.50 before next payment is due

The charity Independent Age is calling on internet providers to do a better job of promoting their broadband social tariffs so that more older people struggling to manage their finances are aware they could be paying as little as £12.50 per month for their broadband services on Virgin Media Essentials. However, it’s not the only option as there are currently over 30 broadband social tariffs to choose from across the UK.

The easiest way to find out if you qualify for a cheaper broadband package is to contact your provider directly. If you are currently claiming benefits such as Universal Credit, Pension Credit, Personal Independence Payment (PIP), Disability Living Allowance (DLA) or Income Support, check the guide at the bottom of this article to see which providers include those benefits as part of their eligibility criteria.

Recent research from the dedicated older people's charity suggests that nearly half of State Pensioners (48%) on a low income have struggled to keep up with their broadband bill in the last six months.

It said the findings raise fears that the cost of living crisis has deepened the ‘digital divide’ and warns that older people in financial hardship may become even more isolated.

The charity said that not being able to go online could mean that older people on low incomes are unable to access information about financial entitlements or services, miss out on savings by not being able to search for the best deals and lose vital social connections.

Take-up of broadband social tariffs is low, with just 5.1 per cent of eligible households using them, suggesting that an estimated 4 million are missing out.

Fran McSweeney, Head of National Services at Independent Age said: “Social tariffs can be a lifeline to help older people who are struggling financially stay connected. The internet can help people in later life stay in touch with friends and family and to access information on financial entitlements, deals and services but it has to be affordable. If you receive a means-tested benefit, it’s vital that you find out if you’re eligible for a social tariff.

“You can find out whether you’re eligible and for a list of what providers are offering through the Ofcom website. These start at £12 per month and are designed with customers who need extra support in mind. Contact your current supplier for more information.”

Independent Age is urging older people who are cutting back on necessities to afford broadband, to check for unclaimed benefits to boost their income. This can be done online at independentage.org or by calling them on 0800 319 6789 for a free and confidential welfare benefits check to see if you’re entitled to support you’re not currently receiving.

The full list of social tariffs for broadband and mobile phones can be found on the Ofcom website here.

Social Tariffs in a nutshell

A social tariff could bring savings of around £200 each year. The quickest way to find out if you might qualify for a social tariff is to contact your supplier directly and ask - even if you do not qualify, they may be able to offer other ways to reduce your broadband bill.

It can be quite confusing knowing if the benefit you are claiming is eligible for a social tariff so we have compiled a list of all the social tariffs available and the benefits that qualify for them.

A new system put in place in 2022 makes it quicker for broadband providers' to check eligibility by accessing a special Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) IT system - with the claimant's permission.

Benefits the DWP’s system will be able to verify entitlement for are:

  • Universal Credit

  • Pension Credit

  • Income Support

  • Income-Based Jobseeker’s Allowance

  • Income-Related Employment Support Allowance

Elderly woman on laptop using internet while on the phone
A phone call to your broadband provider could bring your next bill down and boost your household finances. -Credit:SHARED CONTENT UNIT

Benefits and social tariff for broadband

The providers listed below are taken from the latest guidance on social tariff broadband packages from Ofcom. You can get direct links to the broadband provider websites here.

The broadband providers listed may not be available in your area, we’ve marked those that cover the entire UK as ‘UK’.

Universal Credit

  • BT - UK

  • EE Basic (Now offered through BT) - UK

  • 4th Utility - UK

  • Hyperoptic - Scotland, England and Wales

  • KCOM

  • NOW Broadband - UK

  • Sky Broadband - UK

  • Virgin Media - UK

  • Vodafone - UK

Pension Credit

  • BT - UK

  • EE Basic (Now offered through BT) - UK

  • 4th Utility - UK

  • Hyperoptic - Scotland, England and Wales

  • KCOM

  • NOW Broadband - UK

  • Sky Broadband - UK

  • Virgin Media - UK

  • Vodafone - UK

Attendance Allowance

  • Hyperoptic - Scotland, England and Wales

  • KCOM

Personal Independence Payment (PIP) / Adult Disability Payment (ADP)

  • Hyperoptic - Scotland, England and Wales

  • KCOM

  • Vodafone - UK

Disability Living Allowance (DLA)

  • Vodafone - UK

Income Support

  • BT - UK

  • EE Basic (Now offered through BT) - UK

  • 4th Utility - UK

  • Hyperoptic - Scotland, England and Wales

  • KCOM

  • NOW Broadband - UK

  • Sky Broadband - UK

  • Virgin Media - UK

  • Vodafone - UK

Jobseeker's allowance

  • BT - UK

  • EE Basic (Now offered through BT) - UK

  • 4th Utility - UK

  • Hyperoptic - Scotland, England and Wales

  • KCOM

  • NOW Broadband - UK

  • Sky Broadband - UK

  • Virgin Media - UK

  • Vodafone - UK

Employment and support allowance

  • BT - UK

  • EE Basic (Now offered through BT) - UK

  • 4th Utility - UK

  • Hyperoptic - Scotland, England and Wales

  • KCOM

  • NOW Broadband - UK

  • Sky Broadband - UK

  • Virgin Media - UK

  • Vodafone - UK

Care Leaver's Support

  • Hyperoptic - Scotland, England and Wales

  • KCOM

  • Housing Benefit

  • Hyperoptic - Scotland, England and Wales

Reduced Earnings Allowance

  • Vodafone - UK

10 social broadband tariff deals

Here are 11 to give you an idea of monthly costs, speeds available and eligibility.

BT Home Essentials (No Income)

  • Monthly cost: £15

  • Average broadband speed: around 36mbps

  • Eligibility: various benefits, see above list

BT Home Essentials (Unlimited 36Mbps)

  • Monthly cost: £20

  • Average broadband speed: around 36Mbps

  • Eligibility: various benefits, see above list

BT Home Essentials (Unlimited 67mbps)

  • Monthly cost: £23

  • Average broadband speed: around 67Mbps

  • Eligibility: various benefits, see above list

EE Basic (Now BT Home Essentials)

Monthly cost:from £15 - see BT social tariffs Average broadband speed: around 36mbps Eligibility: various benefits, see above list

Lothian Broadband Social Tariff

  • Monthly cost: £19.99

  • Average broadband speed: 100 Mbps

  • Eligibility: open to all

Sky Broadband Basics

  • Monthly cost: £20

  • Average broadband speed: 36Mbps

  • Eligibility: various benefits, see above list

NOW Broadband Basics

  • Monthly cost: £20

  • Average broadband speed: 36Mbps

  • Eligibility: various benefits, see above list

Virgin Media Essential Broadband

  • Monthly cost: £12.50

  • Average broadband speed: 15Mbps

  • Eligibility: various benefits, see above list

Virgin Media Essential Broadband Plus

  • Monthly cost: £20

  • Average broadband speed: 54Mbps

  • Eligibility: various benefits, see above list

Vodafone Fibre 2 Essentials

  • Monthly cost: £20

  • Average broadband speed: 73Mbps

  • Eligibility: various benefits, see above list