About mixed age couples

On 15 May 2019, the benefit rules for couples where one member is over and one under Pension Credit qualifying age have changed. Couples like this are referred to as mixed age couples. 

Before 15 May 2019 mixed age couples could move off means tested working age benefits and on to Pension Credit when the oldest person in the couple reached pension age. Now, those couples will usually need to stay on working age benefits until the youngest person reaches pension age.

Find out when you are due to reach pension age

This is now the same age for men and women, it is gradually increasing; it was 66 in October 2020 and is due to reach 67 by 2028.  Pension Credit qualifying age is the same as your state pension age.

Means tested working age benefits

There are a range of working age benefits you might be claiming. 

‘Means-tested’ means that the amount of benefit you receive depends on the income and savings you already have. For means tested benefits the income and savings of couples is added together.

The amount of ‘capital’ or savings you and your partner have may affect the amount of benefit you get. There are different ‘capital’ rules for working age benefits and for Pension Credit. 

The means tested working age benefits you may receive are:

  • income based Jobseekers allowance (JSAib)
  • income support (IS)
  • income related employment and support allowance (ESAir)
  • housing benefit and universal credit (UC)

State Pension

The state pension is paid to people who have reached the state retirement age.

The amount you receive will depend on the number of years of national insurance contributions you have paid or been credited with. 

The changes in this section do not affect your State Pension. 

You can start receiving your State Pension when you reach state pension age even though your partner is younger than you. 

You need to apply for it, and you can do this by phone on 0800 731 7898 or online.

You should receive a letter inviting you to claim at least 2 months before you reach state pension age.

If you do not get a letter, you can still make an application up to 4 months before you reach pension age.

Pension Credit

Pension Credit is a means-tested benefit for pensioners. It tops up your income if it is below the Pension Credit threshold. You can receive State Pension at the same time as Pension Credit, but Pension Credit will be reduced pound for pound by the amount of State Pension you receive.

Pension Credit is paid at higher rates than working age benefits (see the Welfare Rights Rates Card for benefit rates).

Before 15 May 2019, when one person in a couple reached pension age, they could move from working age benefits to Pension Credit, this was the case even if the younger partner was not yet pension age. Since 15 May 2019, a mixed age couple will have to wait until the younger partner reaches pension age before they can make a claim for Pension Credit. 

You can make an advance claim for Pension Credit up to four months before you qualify.

What happens when you reach pension age and you have a younger partner

Older person is main claimant

If you reach pension age and you are the claimant of ESA(IR) JSA(IB) or IS, these benefits and any housing benefit will stop and you and your partner will need to make a new couple claim for Universal Credit (UC) instead.

UC can pay you money for your living costs and your rent and for any children and it replaces ESA, IS, JSA and housing benefit and tax credits. 

If you are receiving tax credits it is important to remember that they will end when you claim UC.

Nina and Asad are receiving ESAir and HB and child tax credit for their son who is 18 and in college doing his A levels. Nina suffers with severe arthritis, she is the main claimant for ESA, she is also the older person in the couple.  When Nina reaches pension age, the ESA and HB will end. Nina and Asad need to claim UC before the date Nina reaches pension age. The child tax credits for their son will also end.

Younger person is main claimant

If your younger partner is the main claimant of ESA(IR), JSA(IB) or IS, then these benefits and any housing benefit can continue being paid. This is because they are being paid to a person who has not yet reached pension age and you are included in those claims. In this situation where there is a pensioner premium payable in the benefit(s) that will be paid once the older person qualifies.

Michael and Michelle are claiming IS because Michael cares for his elderly mother who lives nearby and he claims carers allowance. They also receive HB. He is younger than Michelle who is about to reach pension age. As the younger person is the main claimant, the HB continues as working age HB and the IS will continue as a couple claim with Michael as the main claimant, a pensioner premium will increase the amount of IS they receive because Michelle has reached pension age. Carers Allowance will continue unchanged.  The jobcentre should write to Michael to let him know that his IS will continue.

Claiming housing benefit only

If you are only receiving housing benefit because your other income (perhaps from occupational pension(s) or from earnings) is too high for you to claim ESA(IR), IS or JSA(IB), then housing benefit will end.

You will both need to make a claim for UC in order to get benefit to help with your rent. There are different rules if you qualify for the severe disability premium.

Isobel and Roger both work part time. They claim a little housing benefit as their income is still low and they can’t afford to pay their rent. Roger is reaching pension age. If their income is still low once Roger has claimed his State Pension, they will have to claim Universal Credit to continue receiving benefit to help with their rent.

If you are already getting Pension Credit and housing benefit

The rules protect mixed age couples who already claimed Pension Credit and/or housing benefit as pensioners before 15 May 2019.

If you or your partner had already reached pension age before 15 May 2019 and were getting Pension Credit and/or housing benefit already by 15 May 2019 then the claim can continue, and you can make a new claim for either Pension Credit or housing benefit. However, if you have a change of circumstance that means neither of those claims are continuous for you and your partner then you may need to claim UC instead.

If your claim for:

  • Pension Credit
  • Pension age housing benefit
  • both

was made on or before 14 May 2019 and is continuous as part of the same couple since that date, then you can continue to receive those benefits. 

If you were on pension age housing benefit continuously as part of the same couple since that date and now need to make a new claim for Pension Credit, you can and vice versa.

If there is a gap in entitlement where you are no longer entitled to either Pension Credit or pension age housing benefit, then you will have to claim UC when you need benefit again. 

A mixed age couple on Pension Credit and/or HB before 15 May 2019 have a break in claim

Jethro reached pension age in 2018 he and his partner Tilly who is not yet pension age, have been receiving HB since then but their income from Jethro’s pensions is too high for them to receive Pension Credit.  They need to move to be closer to their daughter to help with the grandchildren.  This means moving to a different local authority so they need to make a new claim. Since their entitlement to HB is no longer continuous, they will need to claim UC.

Graham and John have been receiving Pension Credit and HB since Graham reached pension age in 2017, John is still under pension age.  John gets some well-paid work for a few months and his earnings mean entitlement to Pension Credit and HB end.  When the job ends and they need to make a new claim it will need to be a claim for UC as their entitlement to Pension Credit and/or HB is no longer continuous.

A person already claiming Pension Credit and/or housing benefit starts a relationship with someone under pension age

Sandra and Bill have been receiving Pension Credit since February 2019 when Sandra reached pension age.  Bill is not yet pension age and they own their own house. They split up because Bill leaves the home and moves in with Elaine who is also pension age and receives Pension Credit and HB.   

Sandra goes on to Pension Credit as a single person.

Elaine’s Pension Credit and HB come to an end and the new couple need to make a claim for UC as they have now formed a new mixed age couple.

Going abroad

In most cases means tested benefits working age and Pension Credit end after 4 weeks abroad; there are exceptions to this rule; if your absence is for medical treatment or connected to the death of a partner, child or young person who normally lives with you the absence can be longer, but you would need to get advice.

Personal Independence Payment, Attendance Allowance and Disability Living Allowance is normally paid up to 13 weeks temporary absence but can be extended if the absence is for medical treatment to up to 26 weeks.

If your benefit stops and you are a mixed age couple getting Pension Credit, it would mean you need to claim UC instead.

Claiming Universal Credit

You usually make claims for universal credit online

When you have made an online claim you will need to be able to look at your account to check if there are appointments to attend or information you need to provide for the claim to continue.

When you make a claim as a couple, you each make your own online claims and they are linked together with a code.

The first person to claim gets a code then the second person uses that code when they make their claim. This allows the system to treat you as a couple.

Telephone claims

If you are not able to manage an online claim because of disability or a language barrier or because you are particularly vulnerable, then it is possible to make a telephone claim. When you make a telephone claim, you cannot log in or look at your account. If you need to ask any questions about your claim you will need to do this by phone. UC will send details of your payments and how they are made up in the post each month. You make a telephone claim by calling 0800 328 5644.


UC is paid calendar monthly in arrears and the first payment usually comes 5 weeks after the date of claim.  You can borrow an advance of benefit when you make your claim, so you have money for your rent and living costs during the first 5 weeks. You pay the advance back in monthly instalments deducted from future payments of UC over the next 12 months. If you are going find it difficult to budget, you can ask for a more frequent payment of UC twice a month.


Claim Universal Credit before your other benefits end

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.

Contact our Welfare Rights Team

You can:

  • send an email to welfarerights@ brighton-hove.gov.uk 
  • write to Revenues and Benefits, Brighton & Hove City Council, 1st Floor Bartholomew House, Bartholomew, Square, Brighton, BN1 1JE
  • phone the advice Line: 01273 291 116 - open Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, 10am to 1pm