Under Universal Credit there will be 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. For information on the age when you qualify for Pension Credit see changes to state pension age.
Under current Pension Credit rules it is the age of the oldest member of a couple that determines entitlement for Pension Credit (and other means-tested benefits for pensioners). This means that the younger member of the couple is included within the Pension Credit claim because their partner is over the qualifying age.
As well as the various extra benefits available for pensioners, it is also the case that Pension Credit rates are much higher than Universal Credit rates. By way of example, in 2018/2019 the standard minimum guarantee for a couple in Pension Credit is £248.80 per week (£1078.13 per month). In comparison the couple rate for Universal Credit, for a couple over 25, is £498.89 per month.
Couples over pension credit age are also exempt from most benefit restrictions. If you (as a couple) are over pension credit age then you are exempt from social housing sector rent restrictions (the 'bedroom tax'), the benefits cap and also local reductions in Council Tax Support.
At the moment you can still claim Pension Credit as a 'mixed age' couple even in full service Universal Credit areas so this will be the best route if the eldest of the couple is of qualifying age.
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 £64.60 a week because she is looking after her brother. Below we compare their entitlements excluding help with housing costs. Pension Credit is calculated using weekly figures and Universal Credit monthly but we have adjusted their income to suit the example.
Pension Credit standard guarantee is £248.80 plus carer addition £36.00 = £284.80 per week. Their total weekly income of £214.60 will be taken into account so they would receive £70.20 per week Pension Credit. They would also qualify for full Council Tax support and be exempt from the 'bedroom tax'.
Universal Credit standard amount is £498.89 plus carer element £156.45 = £655.34 per month. Their total monthly income of £929.93 will be taken into account so they would not be entitled to a payment of 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'.