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Benefits changes for mixed aged couples

Published on 26 March 2019 03:18 PM


Charity calls on all pensioners with a low income and a non-pensioner partner to put in a claim or risk missing out on up to £7,000 a year

Age UK Wandsworth is calling on all pensioners living on a low income with a partner of working age to urgently check their eligibility for Pension Credit[i] and Housing Benefit[ii] and put in a claim before the Government changes the rules on 15th May.[iii]

The change, sneaked out the evening before the ‘meaningful vote’ on Brexit, will see the right to claim Pension Credit and Housing Benefit – important tools in the fight against pensioner poverty – withdrawn from future claimants who happen to have a partner who hasn’t yet reached their own pensionable age, with potentially devastating consequences for all those affected. Age UK Wandsworth is warning that this could have a devastating impact on local residents.

Age UK Wandsworth is urging anyone who may be entitled to claim benefits to call 0208 877 8940 and make an appointment with their advice and support manager.

The Charity is warning that by slashing the benefits that couples needing to claim benefits in the future by as much as £7,000 a year,[iv] the new policy will place some pensioners in the absurd position of being financially better off if they split up and live apart from their younger partner. This is because once the change is implemented, the older partner could be eligible for significantly more money by claiming Pension Credit as a single person than if the pair of them claim Universal Credit as a couple.

Although in theory this change will not impact on existing claimants the Charity is warning that if a so-called ‘mixed-age couple’ temporarily loses their eligibility for these benefits because of a change in their personal or financial circumstances, from May they will be unable to regain it and will be thrown back onto the Universal Credit regime, the problems of which are well documented.

Over recent years the means-tested benefit systems for pensioners and people of working age have been growing further apart. Some of the main differences are: 

  • The amount you receive: The standard rate of Pension Credit guarantee is paid at a higher level than the standard rate of Universal Credit and this gap has widened. Over recent years Pension Credit guarantee has been uprated, at least in line with earnings, while working age benefit levels have been frozen or increases restricted.
  • How any earnings are treated: For Pension Credit, usually just £5 a week (£10 for a couple) of earnings from work are ignored after which earnings reduce payments £1 for £1. Under Universal Credit, earnings reduce benefit by a 63% taper. So, for example, if earnings rise by £100 a month, benefit reduces by £63.

Philippa Burns – Advice and Support Manager at Age UK Wandsworth, said:

“It’s not at all unusual for one partner to be older than the other so many older couples in Wandsworth on low incomes could be affected by this policy change, even though many of them may not know it yet.  

That’s why we’re urging any pensioner who thinks there is even the slightest chance that they could be entitled to Pension Credit and/or Housing Benefit to put in a claim now rather than wait until May – it could give them as much as £7,000 more to spend a every year until the younger partner becomes a pensioner. 

“We are urging any older person who is worried about money or thinks they may be entitled to claim Pension Credit or other pensioner benefits to get in touch with us ASAP before 15th May so we can help them through the claiming process.”

[i] Pension Credit is an income-related benefit to give you some extra money in retirement:

[ii] If you’re struggling to cover your rent then you could claim Housing Benefit to help with your housing costs:

[iii] The change is due to come into effect from 15th May, 2019. However, there is provision for backdating so as long as makes a claim by 13 August the claim can be backdated to 14th May as long as they met all the rules and were entitled on that date.

[iv] This is the difference between standard UC and standard PC for couples. From April 2019, the rates will be:

Pension Credit (for a couple) - £255.25 per week

Universal Credit (for a couple) – approx. £115 per week (£498.89 per calendar month)