PENSIONERS and people approaching retirement could lose out on £7,000 in pension credit and housing benefit if they don’t apply for the support by May 15.
From this date, couples applying for either benefit for the first time will only be paid if both parties have reached state pension age.
Alamy Pensioners could miss out on £7,000 a year if they don’t apply for pension credit and housing benefit before May 15
Or if one of the couple has reached state pension age and is already claiming either benefit.
This is a shake-up from the current system where one person can claim as soon as they reach the eligible age, regardless of how old their partner is.
Somewhat bizarrely, the new rules will mean pensioners may be financially better off if they split up and lived apart from their younger partner.
Some experts have said it could push pensioners back into work or into working more hours.
What is pension credit and how do I get it? Pension credit is an income-related benefit made up of two parts – guarantee credit and savings credit.
Guarantee credit tops up your weekly income to £163 for single people or £248.80 for couples if it’s below this amount.
Savings credit is an extra payment for people who have saved some money towards their retirement, for example a pension.
Under this you can get up to £13.40 a week if you’re single or up to £14.99 if you’re in a couple.
You might get more if you’re a carer, severely disabled, responsible for a child or young person, or have certain housing costs.
To qualify you must live in England, Scotland or Wales and you or your partner must have reached state pension age.
The rules are changing for new claimaints from May 15 when you’ll both need to have reached state pension age.
To apply, call the pension credit helpline on 0800 99 1234.
When it comes to determining what counts as being a couple, the Government says this would be your husband, wife or civil partner if you live with them or someone else you live with as if you were married.
Charity Age UK estimates that people could lose out on £7,000 a year under the new rules and it’s urging couples to check their eligibility now.
Apply before May 15 and your payments will be protected as long as your circumstances don’t change.
If they change, for example you’re single now but later move in with your partner or you’re in a couple but your situation changes, you’ll have to reapply under the new rules or claim Universal Credit instead.
Getty – Contributor Pensioners should check if they’re eligible for pension credit and housing benefit NOW
Backdated claims can be made if you miss the May 15 deadline, but these must be submitted by August 13.
Caroline Abrahams, charity director at Age UK, said: “It’s not at all unusual for one partner to be older than the other so lots of older couples on low incomes could be affected by this policy change, even though many of them may not know it yet.
“That’s why we’re urging any pensioner who thinks there is even the slightest chance that they could be entitled to Pension Credit and/or Housing Benefit to put in a claim now rather than wait until May.
“It could give them as much as £7,000 more to spend a every year until the younger partner becomes a pensioner.”
What is housing benefit and how do I apply?HOUSING benefit can help you pay your rent if you’re unemployed, on a low income or claiming benefits.
There’s no set amount of housing benefit and what you get will depend on whether you rent privately or from a council, if you have a spare room, your circumstances, and your household income.
To make a new claim you need to apply via your local council. If you already get other benefits, you may be able claim for housing benefit as part of this application – see Gov.uk for more information.
You can only make a new claim if one of the following is true:
you are getting the severe disability premium
you got the severe disability premium within the last month and you’re still eligible for it
you have reached state pension age
you live in temporary accommodation
you live in sheltered or supported housing with special facilities such as alarms or wardens
If not, you’ll need to claim Universal Credit instead.
See Are you eligible for housing benefit, what’s the application, and is it included in Universal Credit? for more information.
A spokesperson for the Department for Work and Pensions added: “This change was voted on by Parliament in 2012 and means, for new claims from 15 May, only pensioners can claim pension credit.
“If a person in the household is of working age we believe it’s fair that they should be in the same circumstances as other people of the same age, regardless of the age of their partner.
“We are writing to all current mixed age couples to make sure they are aware of the change in policy.”
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