Changes in rules will mean some couples miss out on over £7,000 a year!
These couples need to Act Now to safeguard this income.
The couples affected are 'mixed age couples' ie where one member of the couple is working age and their partner is Pension Credit age.
The Government wants 'mixed age' couples to claim Universal Credit.
However at the moment 'mixed age' couples have a choice: they can claim Universal Credit or they can claim Pension Credit / HB etc instead.
And where a mixed age couple are getting UC, they currently have the option of closing down their UC award and claiming Pension Credit and Housing Benefit instead. If a mixed age couple are already claiming UC as a couple, but want to swap to Pension Credit and HB instead, it is still possible to withdraw their UC claim, ie. escape the lobster pot.
This is because the Government has not yet 'closed off' Pension Credit/Housing Benefit to 'mixed age' couples.
However, this will change from 15th May 2019!
From 15th May 2019 most mixed age couples will no longer be able to make new claims for Pension Credit and/or Housing Benefit UNLESS they are already in receipt of Pension Credit, or Housing Benefit under the State Pension Credit age Regulations.
Instead, if they need a financial top and/or help paying their rent they will need to claim Universal Credit.
In addition where a Pension Credit and/or Housing Benefit claimant becomes a couple with a working age partner, then that will trigger the end to the PC and/or HB and if they need a financial top up it will mean a new claim for Universal credit.
What's the issue?
The big issue here is that the majority of mixed age couples will be much better off on the legacy benefit system ie claiming Pension Credit and/or Housing Benefit.
This is because:
- When working out how much a mixed age couple needs to live on - it is over £140 per week less under Universal Credit.
- The younger member may be subject to work search conditions under Universal Credit.
- Unlike the legacy benefit rules - which work from the older member's age, these 'mixed age' couples on Universal Credit will be subject to the Universal Credit rules - therefore subject to:
- the social housing Bedroom Tax,
- the Benefit Cap,
- less generous temporary absence rules,
- less generous savings rules,
- less generous eligible service charge rules
(note: this is not an exhaustive list).
- if they are responsible for children, they can have extra amounts in their Pension Credit and there is no Two Child Limit rule.
- On Pension Credit and / or HB, they may be entitled to premiums they are not entitled to under UC eg the severe disability premium.
- They may lose support linked to Pension Credit such as cheaper utilities, maximum Council Tax Support (for people on Guarantee Pension Credit) etc.
However, some 'mixed age' couples may be better off on Universal Credit eg if they have working non-dependants, so 'better off' calculations need to be done.
Protections for some
Those mixed age couples already on Pension Credit and/or Housing Benefit will not need to move onto UC while they remain entitled ie unless there is a break in their entitlement.
So where a mixed age couple is already claiming Pension Credit, then they can make a new claim for Housing Benefit.
And where a mixed age couple are already claiming Housing Benefit under the State Pension Credit age Regulations, then they can make a new claim for Pension Credit.
What about mixed age couples already on UC?
Those mixed age couples already on Universal Credit can - before 15th May 2019 - end their UC claim and claim Pension Credit and/or Housing Benefit instead if they would be better off. This could make a significant difference to their weekly income for several years. Click here for more information.
Is there anything we should be doing now?
There are still many pensioners who don't claim the Pension Credit / Housing Benefit they are entitled to - with around £3 billion a year in Pension Credit going unclaimed. Some of those missing out will be mixed age couples. So it is important to ensure these couples claim as soon as possible.
Click here for more information.
All mixed age couples not already on Pension Credit and /or Housing Benefit should see if they can claim. We know that 4 in 10 households who could qualify for Pension Credit fail to make a claim!
If they make the claim before 15th May 2019 - even if they are awarded just 50p a week - this could then protect them from having to move onto UC if they have a change in their circumstances.
Jim and Mandy are age 67 and 62 respectively. They currently claim Pension Credit and Housing Benefit on their two bedroom house in Newcastle. In July 2019 they move to Lancaster to be closed to their daughter and grandchildren. Although this move is to a different LA area and would mean a new claim for HB - they are allowed to make that claim as they are in receipt of Pension Credit.
Hani and Brinda are age 71 and 64 respectively. They currently claim Pension Credit. They have been living with their daughter and her family, but Hani is struggling with the stairs and they have applied for re-housing. In September 2019 they are offered a one bed room bungalow. When they move in they will need help paying their rent. As they are getting Pension Credit they will be able to make a new claim for Housing Benefit.
Pete and Simon are age 66 and 58 respectively. Simon has been working and his wage meant that they did not need to claim any benefits. In November 2019 he is laid off and claims New-Style JSA. Even though Pete is Pension Credit age, they are not able to make a new claim for Pension Credit or Housing Benefit - they have to make a new claim for Universal Credit. This will take account of any pensions paid to Pete as well as Simon's New-Style JSA. Simon will have to look for work, but Pete, being pension age, will not