factchecking myths and misconceptions about universal credit

“Mixed-age couples can no longer choose to claim pension age benefits instead of universal credit”

The short answer:

That’s generally true from 15 May 2019 … but there are exceptions

If you are in a couple where one partner is state pension age or above and the other is below that age (known as a mixed-age couple), you cannot choose to claim pension age benefits (pension credit and housing benefit for people over pension age) rather than universal credit (which is paid at a much lower rate). The choice existed until the rules changed on 15 May 2019.

However, you may be able to continue claiming pension age benefits, move from one to the other, or claim other legacy benefits -

  • if you’re already in a mixed-age couple claiming one or both pension age benefits you can continue to receive them after 15 May 2019, as long as neither of you experience a change in circumstances which means you’re no longer entitled;
  • if you’re only entitled to one of the pension age benefits on 14 May 2019 you will still be able to claim the other benefit after that date; and
  • if you’re in a mixed age couple excluded from pension age benefits but also prevented from claiming universal credit (for example because of entitlement to a severe disability premium) you may be able to claim income support, jobseeker’s allowance, employment and support allowance and/or working-age housing benefit.

On the other hand, if you are already getting pension age benefits as a single person and a partner moves in who is under state pension age, you’ll no longer qualify for the pension age benefits until your new partner reaches state pension age, and you will have to consider claiming universal credit as a couple.

Law and case law:

Welfare Reform Act 2012 (Commencement No. 31 and Savings and Transitional Provisions etc ... (Amendment)) Order 2019 (SI.No.37/2019) (as amended by SI.No.935/2019) commences paragraph 64 of Schedule 2 to the Welfare Reform Act 2012 to exclude mixed-age couples from entitlement to state pension credit, and introduces transitional arrangements.

Official guidance:

HB Circular A3/2019 and A9/2019 provide guidance to local authorities on the mixed-age couple changes.

Need more help?

If you need help in finding out more about your rights and the options available to you, do consider contacting a local independent advice organisation. 

Enter a postcode on our advicelocal site to find details of advice organisations in your area. They will usually be able to offer free advice and support, and help to answer any questions you have.

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