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Arran’s MSP Kenneth Gibson is urging all pensioners living on a low income with a partner of working age to urgently check their eligibility for pension credit, an income-related benefit that provides extra money in retirement and housing benefit before the UK government changes the rules on May 15.
The change will see the right to claim the benefits withdrawn from future claimants with a partner who hasn’t yet reached pensionable age. There is concern this move will have severe financial consequences for those affected, including some of Arran’s poorest older residents.
Age Scotland warns that the new policy will place some pensioners in the absurd position of being financially better off if they split up and live apart from their younger partner. Once the change is implemented, the older partner could be eligible for significantly more by claiming pension credit as a single person than universal credit as a couple.
The charity says that if a so-called ‘mixed-age couple’ temporarily loses eligibility for benefits because of a change in their personal or financial circumstances, from May 15 they will be unable to regain it and will be thrown back onto universal credit, the problems of which are well documented.
Age Scotland’s chief executive Brian Sloan said: ‘These changes will have a devastating impact on some of Scotland’s poorest pensioners. Around one in six live in poverty and this retrograde move will do nothing to improve this.
‘It is vital that older people claim what they are entitled to. The Age Scotland helpline offers free benefit checks and can support older people with pension credit claims. Call 0800 12 44 222 before May 15 for information and advice about these changes.’
Mr Gibson, who lead a debate on the changes at Holyrood this week, added: ‘Beyond pension credit, mixed age couples could also miss out on a range of ‘passported benefits’ such as housing benefit, council tax reduction, cold weather payments, dental and eyecare costs, perhaps even the warm home discount. All in, this could mean the loss of financial support for those on the lowest incomes could be £7,320 a year. That is wholly unacceptable and I urge the UK Government to change course.’