Universal credit and mixed age couples

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2019 National Retired Members Conference
1 January 2019

Conference condemns the Government’s decision to implement a benefits cut that impacts mixed-age couples – where one partner is of pension age and the other is not of pensionable age who are in receipt of Universal Credit. The charity Age UK has calculated that this change could leave some pensioners up to £7,000 worse off each year – based on the number of mixed age couples who would be worse off under Universal Credit – than if the pensioner continued to claim pension credits. From April 2019, the rates will be £255.25 per week of pension credit for a couple, and approximately £115 a week under Universal Credit.

Prior to May 15 2019, couples could claim pension credit if one half of the couple was of pension age, even if the other was not of pensionable age. However, this has changed with the introduction of Universal Credit which means entitlement to the credit for a mixed-age couple will be defined by the working-age person, not the pensioner.

This change came into law in 2012 as part of the Welfare Reform Act, The Department for Works and Pensions announced the implementation date in a written ministerial statement on January 14 2019 and this change has come in from 15 May 2019.

From 15 May, all mixed-aged couples who apply for benefits are affected, as well as existing couples who claim pension credit who have a change of circumstances that stops their benefits temporarily for whatever reason.

The impact for pensioners and their partners is likely to be significant, not least in making a claim which has to be done on-line and we know that many pensioners and those nearing pension age do not have access to computers or the internet.

Older people are in effect being penalised for having a partner younger than themselves.

Conference notes that:

a) UNISON emailed members aged over 60 with information about the impending change and to urge mixed age couples eligible for Pension Credit to claim before 15th May; and,

b) UNISON National Delegate Conference 2019 adopted a resolution, Stopping Social Insecurity, (motion 121 as amended) seeking a halt to the roll-out of pension credit and wide-ranging reforms which include restoring Pension Credit to mixed-age couples and which observed that there have been significant problems with the rolling out of Universal Credit which have not been overcome, including delays and administrative errors.

National Retired Members’ Conference states its condemnation of these changes and the damaging effect it will have on a wide and arbitrary cross section of society, especially those of pensionable age.

Conference therefore calls upon UNISON National Retired Members’ Committee to:

1) Congratulate the National Executive Council (NEC) on its initiative to warn selected members of the impending change, urge the NEC to take similar initiatives in future and continue to publicise this issue and similar ones through all appropriate channels like the retired members’ page of the UNISON website and the electronic replacement for ‘Interactive’;

2) Campaign publicly in pursuit of UNISON policy on Universal Credit including for the withdrawal of this unfair change in benefits for mixed-age couples where one partner is of pensionable age;

1) Work with the National Pensioners’ Convention, appropriate community groups, and other unions though Trades Union Congress, to coordinate efforts against this change;

2) Campaign to raise awareness and publicise this legislative change through the appropriate UNISON communications channels to raise awareness of this situation;

3) Encourage retired members to write to their MPs on this issue and ask them to support the withdrawal of this unfair change.

South East Region

South West Region

City of Wolverhampton