Field seeks clarity from Rudd over pension credit change

Work and Pension Committee chair Frank Field has written to the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions Amber Rudd, asking for her to clarify a number of issues arising from the government’s changes to Pension Credit.

In a letter to Rudd published last week, Field said that the change will mean mixed-age couples will now need to claim Universal Credit, instead of Pension Credit, leaving them potentially £588.24 worse off a month.

The changes will see couples make the transition from working-age benefits to pension-age benefits when the younger partner reaches state pension age. Previously, the transition would take place once only one partner had reached state pension age and applied for Pension Credit in their name.

Last week the Department for Work and Pensions was accused of trying to “sneak” out the changes, which could cut benefits available to some older couples by over £7,000 a year.

Field wrote: “I am concerned that this change could see some couples lose a substantial proportion of their income simply because they are different ages. I would be grateful if you would please address the following queries.

“The department published an impact assessment of Universal Credit in 2011, and an equality impact assessment in 2012. The former noted that mixed-age couples will suffer 'some of the larger notional losses' to household income as a result of Universal Credit.”

Querying the impact of the decision, Field asked whether the impact assessments reflected the changes to state pension age planned up until 2028 and what proportion of mixed-age couples currently claim either benefit.

Furthermore, Field asked how many couples the department expects to be affected, the modeling used by the department and the impact it will have on working-age poverty and pensioner poverty.

Royal London analysis found that the rate of Pension Credit for a couple in 2019/20 was £13,273 per year, while the rate of Universal Credit would only be £5,987.

Stephen Lloyd, Independent MP for Eastbourne and Willingdon, also criticised the government’s announcement of changes to pension credits for mixed-age couples.

Lloyd said that the government “must not be allowed to bury bad news by surreptitiously releasing it when the bedlam caused by their own Brexit incompetence is at its height”.

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