If you are a mixed age couple who has to claim UC you need to make the claim before the date you reach pension age. This will protect certain payments.
Benefit ‘run on’
When you move to UC you are entitled to a ‘run on’ of 2 weeks of housing benefit and your income related ESA, Income Support, or income-based Jobseekers Allowance, this helps you to pay for food and fuel and to pay your rent during the first 5 weeks while you are waiting for your first payment of UC. You are only entitled to these benefit ‘run ons’ if you claim UC before the older partner in the couple reaches pension age.
Support group, WRAG, LCW and LCWRA
On ESA there are extra components paid depending on the severity of your health conditions. You might be in the ‘support group’ or the ‘work related activity group’ (WRAG) on ESA. You may receive extra money for being in these groups but the extra money for being in the WRAG was stopped for new claims after April 2017.
These groups continue under new names in UC. The support group becomes LCWRA (limited capability for work related activity) and the WRAG becomes LCW (limited capability for work). Providing you claim UC before you reach pension age, any extra component that was paid under the ESA rules for you will continue to be paid from the start of your UC claim (Reg 19, UC (Transitional Provisions) Regulations 2014).
Automatic entitlement to LCWRA for some disabled pensioners
If you are the pension age person in a couple who have to claim UC, you may be automatically entitled to be in the LCWRA if you have a disability.
The LCWRA element will usually be included in your UC from the fourth month or ‘assessment period’ if the pension age person is entitled to (Paragraph 5, Schedule 9, Universal Credit Regulations):
- Attendance Allowance.
- DLA Care at the highest rate; or
- PIP daily living at the enhanced rate
You usually must wait a ‘relevant period’ of 3 months before the extra component can be included in your claim unless you have already served a 3 month ‘assessment period’ at the start of an ESA claim.
Overpayments and Universal Credit
There have been significant problems for UC claimants having deductions from their monthly payments to repay overpayments of their old benefits.
When you move on to UC, you may find that some of your old benefits keep paying you while you also receive your UC.
You should claim your State Pension as early as possible so that UC know you are receiving it; this should help to avoid an overpayment. State Pension should be deducted from UC pound for pound.
Where you have been overpaid benefit UC will usually take this back from your ongoing monthly payments. They will usually deduct £78.86 per month. This can be reduced if you are experiencing hardship.
To request a reduction contact DWP Debt Management 0800 916 0647.
Housing costs on Universal Credit
Money to help with your rent is usually paid through UC housing element. Your HB may have been going to your landlord automatically. UC housing costs can go direct to your landlord if you make the request, but it does not happen automatically. This means you need to be aware that the money for your rent may go into your bank account when you are first paid UC and you need to pass that on to your landlord.
Conditionality on Universal Credit
UC has rules about conditionality for each claimant in a couple, they may be asked to undertake certain activities and risk losing benefit in the form of a sanction if they do not comply. The person in the couple who is over pension age will have no conditionality applied to them, this means they cannot be sanctioned. They will not have to seek work, be available for work, attend work focused interviews or work-related activity. The younger person may have to look for work or attend interviews/activities depending on their circumstances.
People who are carers receiving carers allowance or the carer element of UC will have no conditionality applied to them. People in the support group with LCWRA will also have no conditionality.
Council tax reduction and the ‘bedroom tax’/spare room reduction
Mixed age couples who must remain on or claim working age benefits because of these rules are treated as working age for some other benefit rules despite one person in the couple having reached pension age.
This means that mixed age couples are not able move on to the pensioner scheme for council tax reduction. Pensioners on Pension Credit or with a low enough income can have a council tax bill of zero whereas working age claimants on council tax reduction are left with a 18% bill in Brighton and Hove even if they are on a means tested benefit.
Mixed age couples will not be exempt from the ‘bedroom tax’ also known as the spare room reduction in their benefit if they must claim UC, however mixed age couples who can remain on income related ESA, Income Support or income based JSA will receive the pensioner premium in those claims and will therefore become exempt from the spare room reduction and not have to pay the ‘bedroom tax’.
Mixed age couples could also be affected by the benefit cap whereas pension credit claimants are exempt.