Only days to go before mixed-age couples lose the chance to claim benefits worth up to £35,000 because of pension credit rule change
By: Age UK
Published on 03 August 2019 12:00 AM
AGE UK SAYS DON'T DELAY – ACT NOW!
Almost a third of mixed-age couples 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 UK.
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 Thursday 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 UK 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 0800 169 65 65 or check its website www.ageuk.org.uk/money.
Age UK's analysis shows that almost one in three couples (31 per cent) have an age gap of five or more years , 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, 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 UK 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 – 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.
Caroline Abrahams, Charity Director at Age UK, 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 UK by calling its national advice line free of charge on 0800 169 65 65, visiting www.ageuk.org.uk/money or contacting their local Age UK for free information and advice.
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Notes to editors
We work with our national partners, Age Scotland, Age Cymru and Age NI and our local Age UK partners in England (together the Age UK Family). We also work internationally for people in later life as a member of the DEC and with our sister charity Help Age International.
Age UK believes that everyone should have the opportunity to make the most of later life, whatever their circumstances. We provide free information, advice and support to over six million people; commercial products and services to over one million customers; and research and campaign on the issues that matter to people in later life. Our work focuses on five key areas: money matters, health and well-being, home and care, work and training and leisure and lifestyle.
Age UK is a charitable company limited by guarantee and registered in England (registered charity number 1128267 and company number 6825798). Age Concern England and Help the Aged (both registered charities), and their trading and other associated companies merged on the 1st April 2009. Together they have formed the Age UK Group ("we"). Charitable services are offered through Age UK and commercial products are offered by the Charity's trading companies, which donate their net profits to Age UK (the Charity).