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Only one day to go before mixed-age couples lose the chance to claim benefits worth up to £35,000 because of pension credit rule change

Published on 12 August 2019 11:29 AM

Age Cymru says don't delay – act now!

Almost a third of mixed-age couples[i] who are entitled to claim benefits could lose out on £35,000 in the time it takes for their younger partner to reach State Pension age (SPA) because of the Government's recent rule change, according to Age Cymru.[ii]

Yet many of these couples may not realise that if the older partner reached their SPA before the rules changed from 15th May 2019, they could still be eligible to make a backdated claim. These couples have until midnight on Tuesday 13th August to put in a claim for Pension Credit or Housing Benefit before the opportunity is lost to claim this important benefit.

As well as the loss of the benefit itself, couples who miss out on Pension Credit could also lose the opportunity to receive other benefits, including cold weather payments, help with health and dental costs, and full Council Tax Reduction. And if the BBC's new means-test for the free TV licence comes into force from June 2020 they won't be able to claim the free licence either, even if the older partner is aged over 75.

Age Cymru is calling on all pensioners living on a low income with a partner who is under SPA to urgently check their eligibility for Pension Credit and Housing Benefit and put in a backdated claim before it's too late. Anyone who thinks they might be eligible can phone the charity's advice line on Freephone 08000 223 444.

Analysis by its sister charity Age UK's shows that almost one in three couples (31 per cent) have an age gap of five or more years[iii], resulting in these couples losing out on as much as £35,000 while waiting for the younger partner to reach SPA – if they are on a low income and potentially eligible for this extra financial help. For more than one in 12 couples (nine per cent) with an age gap of 10 years or more,[iv] the loss could be as much as £70,000 if the younger partner is unable to undertake paid work in the time before they reach SPA and they would otherwise have been able to claim Pension Credit.

Many of those who will be affected by the Government's rule change on Pension Credit have health problems or caring responsibilities and are struggling to manage on the income they currently have. Age Cymru has long argued that no one should be denied the benefits designed to support pensioners once they reach SPA simply because they have a younger partner.

Mixed-age couples who would previously have been eligible for Pension Credit and/or Housing Benefit – prior to the rule change from 15th May, 2019 – are by definition on low incomes and are more likely to be in poorer health at a younger age than other people too. If they are living in the more deprived half of the country they can expect to already be in poor health by the time they reach their SPA. In fact, men and women living in the most deprived 10 per cent of areas have a healthy life expectancy of only 52 years[v] – many years before they will reach their SPA, meaning that many younger partners of mixed-age couples could be in poor health and finding it difficult to work too.

Age Cymru's policy and campaigns manager Dr Valerie Billingham said: "It's not at all unusual for one partner to be older than the other so lots of older couples on low incomes could be affected by this policy change without even knowing it yet. Many unsuspecting pensioners face a heavy financial penalty for having a younger partner, making life considerably tougher for them both as they will be forced to exist on substantially less money. We fear that for some it will make the difference between living reasonably well and really struggling.

"This rule change by the Government weakens the safety net for older people in need and increases the level of inequality between less fortunate older people and the rest. This is deeply regrettable in our view and for any couple affected a complete financial disaster. We repeat our call on the Government to reverse this decision.

"But most importantly of all today, we urge any pensioner who thinks there is even the tiniest chance that they could be entitled to Pension Credit and/or Housing Benefit to put in a claim straight away, certainly before the 13th August deadline next week. If their claim succeeds it could make a huge difference to them in the future, potentially boosting their income by tens of thousands of pounds over the next few years."

Any older person who is worried about money and/or who may be entitled to claim benefits should contact Age Cymru by calling its national advice line free of charge on 08000 223 444, visiting www.agecymru.org.uk/pensioncredit or contacting their local Age Cymru for free information and advice.

[i] Mixed-age couples are couples where one person is State Pension Age or older and the other person is younger than State Pension Age.

[ii] Estimates of age gaps in couples are calculated using data on the ages of partners in 10,941 co-resident opposite sex couples aged 16+ living across the UK, who were surveyed in wave 8 of Understanding Society, the UK Household Longitudinal Study in 2016-18.

[iii] Estimates of age gaps in couples are calculated using data on the ages of partners in 10,941 co-resident opposite sex couples aged 16+ living across the UK, who were surveyed in wave 8 of Understanding Society, the UK Household Longitudinal Study in 2016-18.

[iv] Ibid.

[v] Statistics on inequalities in healthy life expectancy by area level deprivation are taken from ONS data pub. 27th March, 2019: https://www.ons.gov.uk/peoplepopulationandcommunity/healthandsocialcare/healthinequalities/bulletins/healthstatelifeexpectanciesbyindexofmultipledeprivationimd/2015to2017

Age Cymru

1. Age Cymru is the national charity for older people in Wales

2. We are the force combining Age Concern Cymru and Help the Aged in Wales

3. We work with local Age Cymru Partners across Wales to improve life for older people

4. Age Cymru is a registered charity 1128436

5. Company limited by guarantee and registered by in England and Wales 6837284

6. Age Cymru is funded by donations from the public, corporate partners, our trading enterprises and the Welsh Government

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