Changes to the way that couples are treated when one member is over the age for Pension Credit and the other member is under Pension Credit age (known as 'mixed age' couples) came into place in May 2019.
For information on the age when you qualify for Pension Credit see changes to state pension age.
Before 15 May 2019
If you are in a couple your eligibility for means-tested benefits was determined by the age of the older person in the couple.
This means it was the age of the older member of a couple that determined entitlement for Pension Credit (and other means-tested benefits for pensioners) and the younger member of the couple is included within the Pension Credit claim because their partner is over the qualifying age.
After 15 May 2019
From 15 May 2019 this rule was reversed and the age of the younger member of a couple determines whether they qualify for Pension Credit. In most cases this will mean the couple will need to claim Universal Credit instead.
What difference could this make for 'mixed age' couples?
As well as the various extra benefits available for pensioners, Pension Credit rates are much higher than Universal Credit rates. For example, in 2020/21 the standard minimum guarantee for a couple in Pension Credit is £265.20 per week (£1,149.20 per month). In comparison the couple rate for Universal Credit, for a couple over 25, is £594.04 per month.
Couples over pension credit age are also exempt from most benefit restrictions, for example social housing sector rent restrictions (the 'bedroom tax'), the benefits cap and also local reductions in Council Tax Support.
An example casestudy:
Brian is 69 and receives his state and private pensions of £150 a week. His wife Margaret is 55 and receives Carer’s Allowance of £67.25 a week because she is looking after her husband. Below we compare their entitlements under both systems.
Please note: these figures exclude help with housing costs. Entitlements may be different with housing costs included.
Standard Pension Credit guarantee (£265.20) plus carer addition (£37.50) is £302.70 per week
minus total weekly income (£150 + £67.25) of £217.25
= £85.45 per week Pension Credit (or £370.28 per month)
They would also qualify for full Council Tax support and be exempt from the 'bedroom tax'.
Standard amount (£594.04) plus carer element (£162.92) is £756.96 per month
minus total monthly income (£150 + £67.25 * 52 / 12) of £941.42
= £0.00 per month Universal Credit
They may also have to pay at least some of their council tax depending on their local authority’s scheme and they would not be exempt from the 'bedroom tax'.