On 15 January this year Government announced a change in the law which will see the right to Pension Credit and Housing Benefit withdrawn from future claimants with a partner who hasn’t yet reached their own pensionable age.
Age UK and Citizens Advice are deeply concerned about the changes. The two charities are united in their belief that for many, this change will be the difference between being above and below the poverty line and could also possibly force some to stop their unpaid carer role. Age UK is actively campaigning at national level to reverse the decision.
Heather Osborne, Chief Executive of Age UK Shropshire Telford & Wrekin added: ‘Many older people are already missing out on benefits they are entitled to. We strongly encourage all people in a mixed age couple, who know they are eligible for Pension Credit and Housing Benefit, to apply before the deadline on 15 May 2019.
‘If you are in a mixed age couple but are not sure of your entitlement, we would advise you to organise a welfare benefits check, to assess your eligibility for Pension Credit, Council Tax Support or Housing Benefit, without delay. We cannot urge people strongly enough to come and talk to us, either at Age UK Shropshire Telford & Wrekin or Citizens Advice Shropshire.’
The planned change will affect ‘mixed age couples’ (where one person is above and one below pension age) who are in receipt of Pension Credit. Currently, couples can choose to move from working age benefits to pension age benefits when the older partner reaches State Pension age. From 15 May 2019 however, this will no longer be the case and the mixed age couple will receive Universal Credit until the younger partner reaches pension age.
This change will make a huge difference to what mixed age couples are entitled to, up to £7,000 a year less than those currently classified as a Pension Age Couple receive.
Furthermore, income for a working couple is not guaranteed, with many requirements and stipulations to be met to remain on the benefit. Help with Housing Benefit and Council Tax Benefit is also much less generous and online maintenance of the benefit is required on a weekly basis. In addition, many mixed aged couples have a care relationship and it is quite common for a younger partner to give up work to care for their older spouse, who may be disabled or have dementia. From 15 May 2019, such couples could lose access to even more than £7,000.
Jackie Jeffrey, Chief Executive, Citizens Advice Shropshire said: ‘We believe this change will introduce a hugely unfair two-tier system where, for example, two older people of the same age are entitled to two completely different household incomes simply because one has a younger partner and one doesn’t. We are urging any pensioner in a mixed age couple, who thinks they may be entitled to Pension Credit and/or Housing Benefit, to put in a claim now: it could give them as much as £7,000 more to spend every year until their younger partner also becomes a pensioner than if they apply after the deadline.’
If you are in a mixed age couple and are unsure of the impact of this change, please contact either Age UK Shropshire Telford & Wrekin on 01743 233123 or Citizens Advice Shropshire on 0344 499 11 00 as soon as possible.