What should happen when a single UC claimant turns pension age?
UC is a working age benefit. Once a UC claimant hits their pension age for benefit purposes they are no longer entitled to working age benefits, therefore their UC award should end and they can claim pension age benefits instead; ie Pension Credit and Housing Benefit.
NOTE: there are special rules for couples - click here.
But the DWP do not appear to always be picking up this significant date and are continuing to pay Universal Credit incorrectly to people who have reached pension age.
We have seen examples of this happening, even when DWP are aware that the claimant is receiving their state pension (which reduces the Universal Credit award pound for pound as unearned income).
What are the implications?
Universal Credit continuing in payment will not only mean that the claimant is losing out on the higher premiums in PC and HB, but they will also see a gap in benefit entitlement and they will have to repay the overpaid UC.
Mike turned pension age on 27th August 2019. His UC Monthly Assessment Periods run from 6th of one month to 5th of the next. When Mike turned pension age his UC award should have stopped. He’s not entitled to any UC for the MAP 6th August – 5th September* – because at the end of that MAP ie on 5th Sept he was no longer working age.
BUT UC continues to be paid – taking Mike's state pension into account as income.
If UC had ended and informed Mike, he would have known to seek advice and to claim Housing Benefit and Pension Credit. His Pension Credit could start from 27th August leaving a gap in income from 5th August to 27th August.
When DWP eventually realise that Mike is pension age his UC award will end. And DWP will create an overpayment back to 6th August.
Mike can then claim Pension Credit and Housing Benefit and request a backdate – both benefits can be backdated 3 months automatically.
So if UC had continued in payment for longer than 3 months, UC would raise an overpayment for the whole period but PC and HB would only be able to go back 3 months.
What do I need to do?
Single pension age claimant
If you have a client past pension age who is still receiving Universal Credit, they need to get in touch with the DWP asap. If they leave it too long they could have a significant gap in income, they wiill have lost out on the extra that PC and HB would give and there will be a UC overpayment.
The DWP need to end the UC claim and then they can make new claims (and backdate request) for PC and HB.
Approaching pension age
Make claimants aware of advance claims for Pension Credit. Pension Credit advance claims can be made 4 months before the date someone becomes pension age: the easiest way to claim is to phone the Pension Credit claim line on 0800 99 1234
Anyone approaching pension age (who is not part of a mixed age couple) can make an advanced claim for Pension Credit. It is highly advisable that they do so as there is a special provision that allows for the claimant to be paid UC up to the date they turn pension age, so there will be no gap at all between UC and Pension Credit - click here.
*In Mike’s example, if he had made an advance claim for PC his UC would have paid up to 26th August and PC could start on 27th August.
What is the DWP doing to reslove this issue?
This has been raised in different complaints and the response is that the computer system does not have a trigger to identify pension age claimants and the UC system does not automatically link to the pension system.
At a recent committee meeting it was confirmed that there is a project looking at the link between Universal Credit and Pension Credit - click here.
Housing Systems will provide further insight and information if there are any changes between linking Universal Credit and Pension Credit.
Most UC overpayments are recoverable, however the DWP does have a discretion as to whether they recover an overpayment. Any updates on how the DWP treat these overpayments will be shared in future newsletters or on our website.