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 not the case at the moment ... but things are changing from 15 May 2019

If you are in a couple where one partner is above state pension age and the other partner is below that age (known as a mixed-age couple), you can currently 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).

However, from 15 May 2019 this will change so that in general you will only be able to claim a pension age benefit for the first time when both you and your partner have reached state pension age.

You may be able to continue claiming pension age benefits, or move from one to the other, after the change in some circumstances -

  • if you’re already in a mixed-age couple claiming one or both pension age benefits you will continue to receive them after 15 May 2019, as long as neither of you experiences a change in circumstances which means you’re no longer entitled; and
  • 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.

However, if you are 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 they reach state pension age themselves and will have to consider claiming universal credit as a couple.

Tip: If you are in a mixed age couple and have not yet claimed either of the pension age benefits, check if you are entitled before 15 May 2019 to ensure you can retain entitlement after this point. You can backdate a claim by up to three months, so in fact have until 13 August 2019 to make a claim for a period from 14 May 2019 under the old rules.

Law and case law:

Welfare Reform Act 2012 (Commencement No. 31 and Savings and Transitional Provisions etc ... (Amendment)) Order 2019 (SI.No.37/2019) 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:

Housing Benefit Bulletin A3/2019 provides 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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