Thousands of older couples on low incomes will be thousands of pounds a year worse off when a major change in benefit rules takes place in May.
People of pension age on low incomes can get their money topped up by a benefit called Pension Credit. At the moment a couple can claim it if either is over
state pension age – currently around 65¼ – and their income is below £248.80 a week. The Pension Credit tops their income up to that level.
But from 15 May, both partners must be over state pension age. In other words, entitlement to Pension Credit will depend on the age of the younger partner, not the older one.
A couple where one reaches pension age this month but the other is 62 could claim some Pension Credit if their income is below £248.80 a week.
But after 15 May they will not be be eligible until the younger partner reaches state pension age of 66 in 2023 – a wait of more than four years.
The average Pension Credit paid to younger pension couples is around £100 a week, so the delay could cost them £20,000 in lost benefit. They will in theory be able to claim the new benefit, called Universal Credit, instead.
That tops up the income of a couple to just over £115 a week. However, the state pension received by the older partner will normally be at least £125 a week, taking the couple’s income above that limit.
The new rule will apply to any couple who claims Pension Credit on 15 May or later.
It will not apply to couples already getting Pension Credit on 14 May as long as there is no break in their entitlement.
It will also apply to a single pensioner on Pension Credit who then starts to live with a person under state pension age.
Couples – or potential couples – who think they might qualify now should apply at once.
The new rule will also apply to the extra help with rent that people over pension age receive.
To make a claim, call 0800 99 1234 or find out more by visiting independentage.org and searching “pension credit”.