Changes to Pension Credit for mixed aged couples
The benefit system in Northern Ireland is changing.
Universal Credit is a new digital benefit for working age people that has been phased into Northern Ireland since September 2017. It replaces 6 different benefits however its roll out for existing benefit claimants that are currently receiving one or more of the following has been delayed until 2020:
- Jobseekers Allowance (income based)
- Employment and Support Allowance (income based)
- Income Support
- Child Tax Credits
- Working Tax Credits
- Housing Benefit (rent)
Universal Credit won't impact you if you and your partner (if you have one) have reached state pension age.
However the government has announced that there will be changes to new claims to Pension Credit for mixed aged couples from 15th May 2019.
A mixed aged couple is where one member has reached state pension age however their partner is below the age of entitlement. Under the current system only 1 member of a couple needs to be eligible for Pension Credit in order to make a joint claim. This is changing and from 15th May 2019 both members of a couple will need to have reached state pension age to make a new claim to Pension Credit.
What is Pension Credit?
Pension Credit is a top up benefit for single people and couples and ensures that you have a minimum amount of money to live on each week.
It is estimated that 1/3 of older people don't claim Pension Credit that they are entitled to. The basic rates for Pension Credit are more generous than Universal Credit and people claiming Universal Credit can also be subject to conditionality such as looking for work or attending training courses.
You can find out more information on Pension Credit by visiting Rights 4 Seniors.
From 15th May 2019 mixed aged couples who want to make a new claim to Pension Credit will have to claim Universal Credit instead.
The member of the couple of who has reached state pension age will not be subject to work-based conditionality such as applying for jobs or attending training courses. The younger partner may be required to take part in work-based conditionality depending on their circumstances.
Will these changes impact existing Pension Credit claims?
If you and your partner are currently claiming Pension Credit or pension-age Housing Benefit then you will be unaffected by these changes. Even if you are part of a mixed aged couple and are currently claiming Pension Credit you still won't be impacted as these changes only apply to new claims to Pension Credit from 15th May 2019.
Where can you get help with these changes?
If you are worried about these changes or want to check your eligibility for Pension Credit then you can contact the Welfare Changes Helpline on 0808 802 0020 or find one of our members in your area by visiting the Advice NI website.