Everything you need to know about…

When will TV go digital?
Starting in 2008 and ending in 2012, television services in the UK will go completely digital, region by region. Just as with the change from black and white to colour TVs, this change will bring benefits to everyone who enjoys television. Turning off the analogue television signal and converting the whole broadcasting network to digital will mean that everyone will be able to access a range of free digital channels through their aerial.

Will it mean buying a new TV?
Digital switchover will mean that all TV sets in the home must be able to receive a digital signal. Any old analogue television (even black and white ones) can be upgraded to digital, simply by connecting it to a set top box, with prices starting at £25. For those wanting more channels, satellite and cable offer alternative ways to convert.

During this massive change, it’s essential that no one is left behind, and social workers will have a role in helping people prepare. Although most homes already have digital on at least one set, for some people making the switch may prove more difficult. Age and disability in particular may present a barrier.

What help is there to prepare older or disabled people for the switch?
Alongside the assistance on offer from Digital UK, the digital switchover help scheme will provide practical help and support for about seven million people. Those eligible will be the over 75s; those registered blind or partially sighted; and those with significant disabilities (such as receiving attendance allowance, disability living allowance or pensioners’ mobility supplement).

Research shows that take-up of digital TV among these groups is often well below the national average – even though the technology offers benefits such as extra channels, more subtitles and audio description of programmes for those with sight difficulties.

About 40% of over-75s have digital TV (compared with 70% of the general population), and yet this age group watches more television than any other – around four hours per day.

Disabled people are much more likely to have digital TV than people aged 75 and over, although they are less likely to have switched to digital than the population in general.

How much will this help cost?
The help scheme costs £40, except for the poorest eligible households. For eligible people on income support, income-based jobseeker’s allowance or pension credit, it will be free. The scheme provides equipment to convert one TV set, help with installation and follow-up support. Help with installation is provided by a registered digital installer on request and by appointment only.

How soon before switchover should I start helping a client?
Anyone who is eligible will be contacted eight months before switchover.

Digital UK is also working with the charitable and voluntary sector to reach people who need extra help during switchover. We want charities to incorporate digital TV switchover into their existing work and any home or care sector visits they make. We are also working with local councils, charities, volunteer and community groups to “help the helpers” and provide additional information and assistance for those unsure about how to make the switch.

For more information call Digital UK’s helpline 08456 50 50 50

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