Pension changes ‘could plunge more Scots into poverty’

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Scotland’s pensioner couples could be up to £7000 a year worse off unless the UK government reverses its planned changes to pension credit and housing benefits for older people, it has been claimed.

Holyrood's Social Security committee has written to Work and Pensions Secretary Amber Rudd demanding the changes be halted after hearing they could have a "devastating impact" on pensioners.

Work and pensions secretary Amber Rudd was the first resignation of the past 12 months. Picture: Tolga Akmen/Getty

Work and pensions secretary Amber Rudd was the first resignation of the past 12 months. Picture: Tolga Akmen/Getty

In January the UK Government announced that from May, both partners in a couple will need to have reached state pension age in order to claim pension credit or pension age housing benefit.

According to charity Age Scotland, new mixed age couple claimants could lose out on £140 a week, or £7000 a year compared to couples who are already claiming the benefits.

The DWP has already predicted that across the UK 15,000 mixed age couples will be affected by the changes by next year, rising to 60,000 by 2024.

In the letter to Amber Rudd, Committee convener, Bob Doris MSP, wrote: "The consequences of the change will undoubtedly be severe for these couples.

"The Committee is also concerned that following the change, a couple forced to make a claim for Universal Credit would then be subject to possible sanctions should the working age partner fail to comply with work-based conditionality requirements.

"If this change to Pension Credit is not abandoned we anticipate that there will be a consequential increase in demand for support from the Scottish Welfare Fund which provides crisis grants to families and people in Scotland on low incomes.

"It is the agreed position of the Committee that the imminent changes are unfair and will drive up pensioner poverty. The Committee believes that the decision to commence this provision should be reversed."

The letter was sent on behalf of the Committee, with the exception of two Scottish Conservative MPS Jeremy Balfour and Michelle Ballantyne.

The Scottish Government is also being quizzed by the Committee about the level of assessment it has carried out on the impact of the changes on pensioner poverty, the impact on the Scottish Welfare Fund, and what support it could offer to those affected.

In his letter to Social Security Secretary, Shirley-Ann Somerville, Mr Doris has also asked what is being done to promote the uptake of pension credit before the changes come in, as currently the uptake of pension credit is just 40 per cent.