Wellington pensioners could be missing out on financial assistance to help them adapt to digital television.
With under two weeks to go before the digital television switchover in the region, there has been very low uptake in Wellington for the targeted assistance programme offering free installation of Freeview for pensioners over 75, veterans, and those on invalid benefits.
While almost 5000 people in Christchurch and 2500 in Hawke's Bay had taken advantage of the free box and installation, just under 1000 in Wellington had.
Going Digital national manager Greg Harford said many pensioners were paying to convert their televisions to the digital signal themselves. "There's definitely lower uptake, but people are definitely going digital, even if they're not taking up the assistance package."
He said only 5 per cent of households in the lower North Island had not yet installed Freeview, cable or web television services.
People who potentially qualified for assistance had been contacted a number of times, Mr Harford said.
But Grey Power Wellington president Bruce McLachlan thought more needed to be done to get the message out there. "Most people are totally unaware of the assistance package."
He said initial information might have been sent out when the Going Digital programme launched, but people would have long forgotten it by the time they installed digital televisions months or years later.
The lack of information might leave low-income pensioners without access to television when the switchover happened in the lower North Island on September 29.
"Someone with no alternative income [other than the pension] just cannot afford an upgrade."
For people who may not be as mobile or may not have easy access to transport, the television opens up the world."
Many of Newtown's Village at the Park retirement village residents, including Tina Kaffes, had not heard anything about the assistance package. "The message didn't get out there."
One fellow resident, Effie Rankin, had heard about the targeted assistance programme through a social group - though would not be recommending it.
"I got it, and it's an utter disaster. Suddenly, I can't get anything but snow."
The targeted assistance package, forecast to cost the Government between $12 million and $18m, will be available in the lower North Island until January 3. More information can be found through the Going Digital helpline 0800 838 800.
- © Fairfax NZ News
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