Blog by Age Scotland Policy Officer Ashleigh de Verteuil
Pension Credit is an important top up benefit for older people who are on a low pension income. It is already a massively under claimed entitlement with the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) estimating that 40% of those eligible for pension credit don’t claim it.
But now changes by the UK Government to the eligibility criteria will see more older people unable to claim and become poorer as a result.
This is the bit where you, and your dearest’s, birthday matters. If you’re what is called a ‘mixed aged couple’, in other words one of you is of pensionable age and the other is younger than their state pension age, you will no longer be able to claim pension credit. What, you mean you don’t have the same birthday and birth year as your partner? Weird!
To make matters worse, the basic Pension Credit rate for a couple is currently £248.80 a week, and the basic Universal Credit rate for a couple is only £114.85 a week.
And I hate to add further insult to injury, but Pension Credit is a ‘passporting benefit’. This means that it acts as a qualifying benefit for other forms of assistance, but as you won’t be able to claim Pension Credit until you both are of pensionable age then you can’t claim them. This includes cold weather payments, maximum help with housing benefit, maximum help with Council Tax Reduction and you’ll also be affected by the ‘bedroom tax’, will not have access to claim social fund funeral payments, and may not be entitled to the warm home discount.
What are your options? Well you can either wait until the younger partner reaches their state pension age, or they can claim Universal Credit in the meantime as way to boost your joint income. This will mean they’ll be subjected to Universal Credit conditionality, for example, needing to prove that they are a carer, or that they’re seeking work for 35 hours a week, or that they’re not well enough to work. If you decide not to claim Universal Credit, and have no other income then you would be £133.95 a week worse off, potentially for several years.
This move is hugely unjust. With pensioner poverty on the rise, 29% of people aged 75 and over living on or just below the poverty line, and fuel poverty likely to increase.
The Age Scotland freephone helpline, which provides free information, friendship and advice is on hand to provide support to people over 50, their families, and carers. The changes for mixed aged couples won’t be introduced until May 15th 2019 so there is still time to start the Pension Credit claim process. This is something we can help with, call our helpline advisors and they can give you a free benefit check to see if you’re getting everything that you’re entitled to. In fact they can help with just about anything, they’re very knowledgeable- and friendly.
I implore you to call them, the changes to Pension Credit are a few months away and they can talk you through any entitlements you may be eligible for in great detail and how to claim them
If you’d also like to share your outrage about these changes, then we want to hear from you too. Sharing people’s real life stories is the best way to bring forward change so do get in touch with us.
Our helpline is free to call, and is available Monday to Friday 9am to 5pm on 0800 12 44 222.