Work and pensions select committee chair Frank Field has written to the secretary of state for work and pensions Amber Rudd seeking clarity on changes made to pension credit.
Following the announcement last week that mixed-age couples will now have to wait until the younger partner reaches state pension age to receive pension credits, Field (pictured) wrote to Rudd voicing his concern.
‘The new rules mean eligibility is determined by the younger partner’s age. Mixed-age couples will, therefore, need to claim universal credit instead.
‘In practice, mixed-age couples will nearly always be better off claiming pension credit. For example, in 2018/19, the standard minimum rate for a couple claiming pension credit is £248.80 per week, or £1,078.13 per month. The comparable couple rate in universal credit is £489.89 per month,’ Field said.
He expressed ‘concern’ that the amendment could ‘see some couples lose a substantial proportion of their income’, up to £7,000, simply due to their age difference.
As a result, he noted the change, due to be implemented in May 2019, will mean affected couples will now need to claim universal credit instead of pension credit.
Field referred to the department’s impact assessment of universal credit in 2011 and an equality impact assessment in 2012. He questioned whether these reflected the changes to the state pension age planned up to 2028 and the proportion of mixed-age couples that currently claim universal credit, legacy benefits and/or pension credit.
In the letter, Field also queried the number of couples the department expects to be affected by the change, what type of modelling the department has used to assess financial loss and its assessment on the effect the change will have on working-age poverty and pensioner poverty.