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Tough new rules could hit mixed-age couples

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The government has been accused of trying to sneak out important changes to the pension rules for ‘mixed age’ couples ahead of the Brexit vote.

Previously mixed age couples could transition from working age benefits to pension age benefits when the older partner reached state pension age. The Department for Work and Pensions has said from 15 May 2019, the transition will happen only when the younger partner reaches State Pension age, currently 65 for men and women.

It said: “This will ensure the younger partner is in the same circumstances as other people of the same age, regardless of the age of their partner.” Guy Opperman, pensions minister, has previous said that the pension credit is designed to support retirees who are no longer economically active, rather than working-age claimants.

It added that mixed age couples with a partner under State Pension age already in receipt of Pension Credit or pension-age Housing Benefit at the point of change will be unaffected while they remain entitled to either benefit.

Pension experts warned that the change in eligibility could leave some couples more than £7,000 a year worse off because the rate of pension credit is typically higher than working-age benefits. At the same time, there is a risk of a ‘cliff edge’ on 15 May, depending on when people retire. He said couples where one partner is over pension age and is not expected to seek work will get the same rate as a couple where both partners are under pension age and both are expected to seek work.

What is pensions credit?

Pension Credit is an income-related benefit that is paid alongside a State Pension. It is made up of two parts: Guarantee Credit and Savings Credit.

Guarantee Credit tops up your income to £163 a week if you’re single or £248.80 if you’re in a couple (from 9 April 2018). Savings Credit pays up to £13.40 per week if you’re single and £14.99 per week if you’re in a couple.

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