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Mixed age couples

If you are in a mixed age couple (a couple where one partner is a pensioner and the other is under pension age), or thinking of becoming a mixed age couple, it is important that you seek expert benefit advice before making any decisions about your benefit claims or entitlements.

What is a mixed age couple?

On 15 May 2019, the law changed so that a ‘mixed age couple’ (a couple where one partner is a pensioner and the other is under pension age) are considered to be a ‘working age’ couple when checking entitlement to means-tested benefits.

This means they cannot claim Pension Credit or pension age Housing Benefit until they are both pension age. Before this change, a mixed age couple could be eligible to claim the more generous pension age benefits when just one of them reached pension age.

We are already receiving Pension Credit and/or pension age Housing Benefit

If you were already receiving Pension Credit or Housing Benefit under the pension age rules before 15 May 2019 (or were able to claim by 13 August 2019 and had it backdated to before the rule change), you can continue to receive your pension age benefit/s. Importantly, if you are only claiming one pension age benefit, you are still able to make a new claim to the other. This will remain the case as long as you do not have a change of circumstance that would end your entitlement to your pension age benefit/s.

If you lose your entitlement to your pension age benefit/s, any new claim will have to be for Universal Credit (UC). The exception to this is if you are prevented from claiming UC because you were receiving a Severe Disability Premium in your benefit, in these cases you would need to make a new claim for a legacy working-age benefit such as Employment and Support Allowance, Income Support or Jobseeker's Allowance.

Changes of circumstance that could end pension age benefit entitlement

These examples are just some of the changes that could lead to you losing your entitlement to Pension Credit and/or pension age Housing Benefit:

  • Your income increases, causing your benefit award to reduce to £0 – this could be an increase in earnings or other income
  • You are receiving only pension age Housing Benefit and your savings rise above £16,000
  • You go abroad for a period of more than 28 days
  • You lose a premium (additional amount in your benefit), causing your benefit award to reduce to £0 - for example if you stop qualifying for a carer premium or disability premium
  • You are receiving only pension age Housing Benefit and you move house to a different local authority area - this would end your current pension age Housing Benefit claim and with it your eligibility to claim Pension Credit if needed in the future. The new benefit claim for help with housing costs would need to be for Universal Credit (or working age Housing Benefit if receiving a Severe Disability Premium prevents you from claiming UC). 
  • You separate so the joint benefit claim ends - the pension age partner can make a new single claim for pension age benefits and the working age partner will need to make a new single claim for Universal Credit (or a different working age benefit if receiving a Severe Disability Premium prevents them from claiming UC).

If you are currently a single pensioner receiving a pension age benefit, moving in with a working age partner would be a change of circumstance that would end your pension age benefit entitlement and you would need to claim a new working age benefit as a 'mixed-age couple'. You would not qualify for pension age benefits again until your partner reaches pension age or you separate.

It is extremely important to get expert benefits advice if you think a change of circumstance might lead to you losing your pension age benefit/s.

We are not already receiving Pension Credit and/or pension age Housing Benefit

Pension Credit

It is now too late for a 'mixed age couple' to make a new Pension Credit claim (unless you retain eligibility because you have a pension age Housing Benefit claim, see above). Any new benefit claim will have to be for Universal Credit (UC) instead. The exception to this is if you are prevented from claiming UC because you were recently receiving a Severe Disability Premium, in these cases you will need to make a new claim as a couple for a legacy working-age benefit such as income-related Employment and Support Allowance, Income Support or income-based Jobseeker's Allowance.

The pension age member of the couple will not be subject to any work requirements that may exist as part of the working-age benefit claim.

Housing Benefit

It is now too late for a 'mixed age couple' to make a new pension age Housing Benefit claim (unless you retain eligibility because you have a Pension Credit claim, see above). Any new benefit claim to help with housing costs will have to be for Universal Credit (UC) instead. The exception to this is if you are prevented from claiming UC because you were recently receiving a Severe Disability Premium, in this case you will need to make a new claim for Housing Benefit under the working age rules - the pensioner will be treated as if they meet the upper age limit.

Council Tax Reduction/Support

If you are a mixed age couple and you or your partner are claiming Income Support, income-based Jobseeker's Allowance, income-related Employment and Support Allowance or Universal Credit, you will need to make a claim for working age Council Tax Reduction/Support to help with Council Tax. These schemes vary depending upon where you live.

If you are a mixed age couple and neither you nor your partner are claiming Income Support, income-based Jobseeker's Allowance, income-related Employment and Support Allowance or Universal Credit, you can still make a claim for pension age Council Tax Reduction/Support to help with Council Tax. The pension age scheme is set nationally and is more generous than the localised working age schemes.

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