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Published on 02 October 2017 11:00 AM

Age NI is urging people who are unsure about the impact of Universal Credit benefit and how it may affect them to call the Age NI Advice Service on freephone 0808 808 7575 for help.

The introduction of Universal Credit will change the way couples are treated within the benefits system when one partner is over the qualifying age for Pension Credit and one is younger.

Brenda Kearns, Head of Advice and Advocacy, said, 'Age NI has received a number of calls from people who are concerned about the new Universal Credit benefit and how it will affect Pension Credit, a benefit that helps top up your income each week.

'Currently, couples can claim Pension Credit as long as one partner has reached the qualifying age. This will change for new claimants with the introduction of Universal Credit. Under Universal Credit, couples will only be able to claim Pension Credit when both have reached the qualifying age. If one person in a couple is under pension age, they must claim Universal Credit, rather than Pension Credit. This means they could have significantly less income on Universal Credit than they would have had if they were claiming Pension Credit.

'Those already in receipt of Pension Credit will not be affected by the changes from Welfare Reform. Other significant concerns that may also cause difficulties for older people who are already struggling to make ends meet is a six-week payment delay at the start of the process and that the benefit will be paid monthly.

'Age NI is concerned that the introduction of Universal Credit could increase pensioner poverty and put pressure on family relationships. The older partner may be financially better off living alone and claiming Pension Credit. We would urge people to apply for Pension Credit as soon as possible before the introduction of Universal Credit takes place in their local area.

'Our team of experienced advisors will be available to provide a free benefits check to help people find out what benefits they’re entitled to and assist them to apply. Please pick up the phone and call the Age NI Advice Service on freephone 0808 808 7575 in confidence.'

For more information: Call Age NI Advice: 0808 808 7575