IMPORTANT: Regulations have now been laid - from 15th May 2019 most mixed age couples will not be able to make a new claim for Pension Credit, Housing Benefit or Tax Credits to start on or after 15th May 2019, and will have to claim Universal Credit instead - some protections will apply.
What if a mixed age couple has claimed Universal Credit?
Then they can cancel their Universal Credit claim and the older partner can make claims for Pension Credit, Housing Benefit and/or Tax Credits. This is because Pension Credit can still be claimed as long as one member of the couple is Pension Credit age - and Housing Benefit and Tax Credits have only been closed for new claims from people of working age.
Jill and Ben are a couple, aged 61 and 66 respectively. They are married and live in a two bedroom property which they own outright i.e. no mortgage outstanding. Jill finishes work and goes to the local Jobcentre where she claims UC - as they have no income other than Ben’s £90 a week State Pension. Their Maximum UC is £498.89 per month and they are awarded around £114 a month in UC (their Max UC is reduced by Ben's state pension - which is worked out as a monthly amount). Jill is also having to seek work as a condition of their claim.
Ben is later on advised that another option would be to claim Pension Credit (PC) instead. He gets a better off calculation done, and they decide to close down their UC award and Ben submits a claim for PC (because Ben is already PC age – PC can be backdated so ideally they need to end UC claim asap rather than wait until the end of their MAP).
On Pension Credit their applicable amount ie the amount they need to live on is £248.80 a week meaning that, after taking Ben's state pension into account, they are entitled to £158.80 a week Guarantee Pension Credit – the equivalent of £688.13 a month (not to mention no conditionality for Jill, and that they are likely to get more Council Tax Support and cold weather payments etc)
How and when should a mixed age couple end their UC award?
They can end their UC award at any time - by requesting this on their journal and/or by calling the UC helpline, but thought needs to be given as to when it would be best to end the claim.
Where the older member has been Pension Credit age for a while
If the older member of the couple has been Pension Credit age for a while, and they are better off on Pension Credit, then they may be best ending their UC claim straight away and putting in a claim for Pension Credit and HB the next day.
Their UC award will end from the beginning of the Monthly Assessment Period in which they withdraw their UC claim - so they will need to request that their PC and HB claims be backdated to the day after this date.
Where they are close to the end of their current UC Monthly Assessment Period, then they will be due a UC payment - if they withdraw their UC claim before the end of the MAP this payment will not be made. So consideration needs to be given as to how they will manage until their PC claim is assessed - they could request a short-term advance.
Where the older member has just turned Pension Credit age
If the older member of the couple has only just turned Pension Credit age, then they may be better off waiting until the beginning of their next UC Monthly Assessment Period before ending their claim for UC.
This is because their UC award will end from the beginning of the Monthly Assessment Period in which they withdraw their UC claim - but they will not be able to be paid any PC or HB until the older member has reached Pension Credit age - so they would end up with a gap between the UC award ending and the PC and HB starting. A better off assessment will need to be done.....because PC and HB will pay them more it may be worth having a small gap.
Can't they make a claim for Pension Credit and then withdraw the UC claim once this is assessed?
Unfortunately not, the Universal Credit Transitional Provision Regulations prevent a UC claimant from making a claim for Pension Credit (unless it is an advance claim).
So they must end their Universal Credit claim first.