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Mixed age couple and housing benefit from 15th May

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Ianb
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Following the recently announced implementation of changes to Pension Credit entitlement for mixed age couples I am unclear what happens to existing housing benefit claims. The commencement order Welfare Reform Act 2012 (Commencement No. 31 and Savings and Transitional Provisions and Commencement No. 21 and 23 and Transitional and Transitory Provisions (Amendment)) Order 2019 (SI.No.37/2019) contains this:

Transitional provision: termination of awards of housing benefit

6.—(1) The awards of housing benefit referred to in paragraph (2) are to terminate on the day referred to in paragraph (3), subject to paragraph (4).

(2) The awards are those where entitlement under the Housing Benefit SPC Regulations as part of a mixed-age couple begins on or after the appointed day and where the awards are made—
(a) at any time, under the Housing Benefit Regulations 2006(1) or the Housing Benefit SPC Regulations, to a person who, after the award, becomes a member of a mixed-age couple;.
(b) at any time, under the Housing Benefit Regulations 2006, to a person who is a member of a mixed-age couple, where the award subsequently ceases to be subject to those Regulations and becomes subject to the Housing Benefit SPC Regulations; or
(c)on or before the day of making of this Order, to a person who claimed in advance of attaining the qualifying age for state pension credit.
.
(3) The termination takes effect—
(a) in the case of an award referred to in paragraph (2)(a) or (b), on the later of the appointed day and the day entitlement under the Housing Benefit SPC Regulations as part of a mixed-age couple takes effect on the award, as a change of circumstances, in accordance with the Housing Benefit and Council Tax Benefit (Decisions and Appeals) Regulations 2001(2); or
(b) in the case of an award referred to in paragraph (2)(c), on the day after the day of making of this Order.
.
(4) Paragraph (1) does not apply to awards in respect of specified accommodation or temporary accommodation, as defined respectively in sub-paragraphs (h) and (l) of article 7(11) of the No. 23 Order(3).

There is an explanatory note which says “Article 6 provides for termination of awards of housing benefit made to a person who has become a member of a mixed-age couple, awards made to a mixed-age couple where the award becomes subject to the Housing Benefit (Persons who have attained the qualifying age for state pension credit) Regulations 2006 (S.I. 2006/214), and advance awards made to a member of a mixed-age couple before the making of this Order. Awards must terminate where entitlement to housing benefit for those of state pension credit qualifying age, as part of a mixed-age couple, would otherwise have begun on or after the appointed day. “

Having read both the clause and the explanatory note I am none the wiser as to what this means. What is the position for someone in a mixed age couple currently receiving Housing Benefit on the day the older party reaches pension age? Anyone able to enlighten me?

     
Paul_Treloar_AgeUK
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For any mixed-age couple currently claiming, It’s important to make sure it’s the older partner who is the HB claimant as their claim is assessed under The Housing Benefit (Persons who have attained the qualifying age for state pension credit) Regulations 2006., which means that the savings provisions apply and that claim can continue past 15 May (and they can establish entitlement to PC at any time after this date provided they continue to be entitled to HB on this basis).

It’s not so clear what happens if they move house to another local authority area as that entails a fresh claim so we’re awaiting clarification on that and a number of other issues.

I found much of this CO pretty difficult to understand to be honest with you.

     
stevenmcavoy
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Paul_Treloar_AgeUK - 30 January 2019 09:43 AM

For any mixed-age couple currently claiming, It’s important to make sure it’s the older partner who is the HB claimant as their claim is assessed under The Housing Benefit (Persons who have attained the qualifying age for state pension credit) Regulations 2006., which means that the savings provisions apply and that claim can continue past 15 May (and they can establish entitlement to PC at any time after this date provided they continue to be entitled to HB on this basis).

It’s not so clear what happens if they move house to another local authority area as that entails a fresh claim so we’re awaiting clarification on that and a number of other issues.

I found much of this CO pretty difficult to understand to be honest with you.

I had missed the fact that a mixed age couple with hb would still be able to make a new claim for pc post 15th may.

     
Gareth Morgan
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Paul_Treloar_AgeUK - 30 January 2019 09:43 AM

It’s not so clear what happens if they move house to another local authority area as that entails a fresh claim

I read

shall cease to have effect in relation to the member of the mixed-age couple referred to on any day after the appointed day when that person is not entitled to either state pension credit or housing benefit as part of the same mixed-age couple.

as meaning that they should be OK as long as the new claim and conditions are met on the same day as the old claim ends.

     
Ianb
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Thanks for replies. Have realised I posted my question badly. Situation I am particularly interested in is that for a couple in receipt of housing benefit who are both currently below Pension age, and will be on 15th May.

When the older member of the couple reaches pension age after 15th May what is the status of the Housing Benefit claim? Does it become subject to Housing Benefit (SPC) Regulations and if so does this affect entitlement to claim Pension Credit? I simply find clause 6 incomprehensible.

Public guidance at https://www.gov.uk/pension-credit/eligibility says
“Changes to Pension Credit eligibility from 15 May 2019
From 15 May 2019, if you’re in a couple you’ll only be eligible to start getting pension credit if either:
•you and your partner have both reached Pension Credit qualifying age
•one of you has reached Pension Credit qualifying age and is claiming Housing Benefit (for you as a couple)
If you’re not already getting Pension Credit on 14 May 2019, you can backdate your claim. You could still be eligible to get Pension Credit.
You can ask for your claim to be backdated to 14 May or before. You’ll need to apply by 13 August 2019 to do this.
You can apply for Universal Credit instead if you’re still not eligible.”

The second bullet point reads as if someone can reach pension age, claim HB as a couple and then, once awarded, claim PC which makes a nonsense of this change (and would also put renters in an unfair advantage over non renters). I would expect it to say “one of you had reached Pension Credit qualifying age by 14th May and is claiming Housing Benefit (for you as a couple)”. Is this just badly worded government website or am I missing something?

      [ Edited: 30 Jan 2019 at 11:31 am by Ianb ]
Gareth Morgan
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Ianb - 30 January 2019 11:29 AM

The second bullet point reads as if someone can reach pension age, claim HB as a couple and then, once awarded, claim PC which makes a nonsense of this change (and would also put renters in an unfair advantage over non renters)

The wording includes
a member of a mixed-age couple who, on the day before the appointed day and as part of that couple, is entitled to—
(a) state pension credit;
(b) housing benefit; or
(c) state pension credit and housing benefit.

They won’t be able to claim HB as a mixed-age couple because they’ll have to claim UC.

 

      [ Edited: 30 Jan 2019 at 11:42 am by Gareth Morgan ]
Ianb
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Gareth Morgan - 30 January 2019 11:39 AM
Ianb - 30 January 2019 11:29 AM

The second bullet point reads as if someone can reach pension age, claim HB as a couple and then, once awarded, claim PC which makes a nonsense of this change (and would also put renters in an unfair advantage over non renters)

The wording includes
a member of a mixed-age couple who, on the day before the appointed day and as part of that couple, is entitled to—
(a) state pension credit;
(b) housing benefit; or
(c) state pension credit and housing benefit.

They won’t be able to claim HB as a mixed-age couple because they’ll have to claim UC.

So the public website is badly worded because it doesn’t include the reference to 14th May (not entirely a surprise).

Clause 4 which you have quoted has to be read in the context of clause 2(3) which says “all references in this Order to claims or entitlement to housing benefit are to claims or entitlement under the Housing Benefit SPC Regulations only”.

So couple is claiming HB on 14th May but not under HB (SPC) because both below Pension age. They are not therefore a ‘mixed-age’ couple on the appointed day. When one of them subsequently reaches pension age what does clause 6 means for the status of the HB claim? Does the existing HB claim become a HB(SPC) claim or does it continue as an ‘ordinary’ HB claim?

I expect I’m trying to overthink this and in the process of disappearing but a bit of plain English would certainly help.

      [ Edited: 30 Jan 2019 at 01:10 pm by Ianb ]
HB Anorak
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I don’t think anything in Article 6 affects existing working age couples with live HB awards.  They can stay on HB until it either ends naturally, they migrate to UC naturally, or they undergo managed migration.  If one of them reaches SPC age, the consequences would be as follows:

- the older member of the couple cannot make a claim for SPC from 15 May
- if the older member of the couple is the claimant on a working age DWP legacy benefit, that benefit will end and neither of them will be able to make a new claim for any other legacy DWP benefit (unless they have the SDP), so there is a high likelihood they will decide to claim UC
- if the younger member of the couple is the claimant on a working age DWP legacy benefit, they will receive a pensioner premium in the applicable amount and HB will continue for the time being;

By the way it doesn’t matter which of them is the HB claimant*.  Irrespective of whether the older or younger member of the couple is the HB claimant:

- if neither member of the couple is on working age DWP benefits, the HB(SPC) Regs apply
- if either member of the couple is on DWP working age benefits, the working age HB Regs apply.

That brings me to Article 6(2)(b): I wonder whether HB would terminate in a case where the older member of the couple is the legacy DWP claimant? Is there a nanosecond in which they become a mixed age couple under the working age HB Regs, then cease to be such a couple when the working age benefit ends because the claimant has reached SPC age?  If so, HB would terminate under Article 6(2)(b)

In practice I think most couples in that situation would end up claiming UC anyway because the loss of the DWP benefit will leave them without any income for living costs - then HB would end through natural migration.

*Article 7 of the No 23 Order has been amended from 14 January so that any new HB claim by a mixed age couple must be made by the older member of the couple.  That is already in force now.  But for claimants who were already on HB before 14 January, all the above comments apply in the same way no matter who is the claimant.

     
HB Anorak
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That brings me to Article 6(2)(b): I wonder whether HB would terminate in a case where the older member of the couple is the legacy DWP claimant? Is there a nanosecond in which they become a mixed age couple under the working age HB Regs, then cease to be such a couple when the working age benefit ends because the claimant has reached SPC age?  If so, HB would terminate under Article 6(2)(b)

Answering my own question, after discussing this with a non-RN member who really would be a huge asset to this forum if he could get access, I think the wording of Article 6(2)(b) is aimed at a case where the couple was already mixed age at the time when the HB award was first made: it is referring to a case where at any time a mixed aged couple on working age DWP benefit made an HB claim, HB was awarded, and that DWP benefit subsequently stopped.  So it wouldn’t catch a couple who were working age when their award began.

     
Ianb
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Received this from someone who cannot post here:

“Your question essentially is about a couple already receiving working-age HB, and then the older member turns pension-age.

I believe there is no way the HB award will continue as a working-age award, seeing as the HB Regs require the award to be calculated under the pension-age regs, and they have not been amended.

The question is only whether the award will continue as a pension-age award, or if it will terminate and necessitate a UC claim.

The reason for thinking the HB award could terminate is due to the possibility it falls within Article 6(2)(a).

That subparagraph is primarily dealing with a case where the mixed-age couple is only FORMED later, ordinarily triggering entitlement to be recalculated using the pension-age regs.

The question is whether it could possibly include your case as well. That is, does your case come within the phrase “becomes a member of a mixed-age couple”. You could interpret this to include where this happens through the formation a new relationship (as above) and also through one of a couple turning pension-age (your case).

I actually discussed this with both Gareth Morgan (through comments no his blog) and Peter Barker (by email). They both think, and I agree with them, that your case does not fall within this subparagraph.

If this is correct, HB entitlement would continue under the pension-age rules. However, a PC claim will still not be possible, as this still doesn’t fit in to one of the savings cases.

I believe this to be correct, not just because that seems to be the simplest meaning of the words used in the regs, but also because this would be a huge change if all couples on HB (and not IS/JSA/ESA) would be forced onto UC the moment one turns pension-age.

I agree it does not fit so easily with the logic the DWP seem to be employing, that pension-age HB and PC work together, and one should not be possible without the other. However, I still believe this is correct.”

My response to them was that they had phrased my question better than I did! The response is logical and what one might expect the regulations to mean but they are so badly written that the meaning is not clearly conveyed.  The information on the public gov.uk website is also completely misleading because it can be read as saying that if you’re getting HB you can still get PC!

      [ Edited: 31 Jan 2019 at 12:11 pm by Ianb ]
Ianb
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HB Anorak - 31 January 2019 09:59 AM

In practice I think most couples in that situation would end up claiming UC anyway because the loss of the DWP benefit will leave them without any income for living costs - then HB would end through natural migration.

The challenge is that although the working age benefit is lost the pensioner’s state pension goes into payment and the standard rate pension if they are getting that is more than the standard UC allowance for a couple. This means that if there are no other elements in play the pension income eats into the help with housing costs.

In cases where there are no housing costs a couple will have no UC entitlement if their only entitlement is the standard couple allowance and will have to live off the one state pension.

     
HB Anorak
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Good point, I had completely overlooked the likelihood that state pension would make it pretty pointless to claim UC.  They might as well remain on HB and state pension, in fact they will be better off that way because HB will include the SPC-age applicable amount - assuming that is that Article 6(2)(a) is not triggered by them becoming a mixed age couple (and the consensus seems to be it isn’t - I see you are also in touch with CE, wish he was able to post on here).

     
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HB Anorak - 31 January 2019 12:43 PM

I see you are also in touch with CE, wish he was able to post on here.

Agree

     
Paul_Treloar_AgeUK
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HB Anorak - 31 January 2019 09:59 AM

I don’t think anything in Article 6 affects existing working age couples with live HB awards.  They can stay on HB until it either ends naturally, they migrate to UC naturally, or they undergo managed migration.  If one of them reaches SPC age, the consequences would be as follows:

- the older member of the couple cannot make a claim for SPC from 15 May
- if the older member of the couple is the claimant on a working age DWP legacy benefit, that benefit will end and neither of them will be able to make a new claim for any other legacy DWP benefit (unless they have the SDP), so there is a high likelihood they will decide to claim UC
- if the younger member of the couple is the claimant on a working age DWP legacy benefit, they will receive a pensioner premium in the applicable amount and HB will continue for the time being;

By the way it doesn’t matter which of them is the HB claimant*.  Irrespective of whether the older or younger member of the couple is the HB claimant:

- if neither member of the couple is on working age DWP benefits, the HB(SPC) Regs apply
- if either member of the couple is on DWP working age benefits, the working age HB Regs apply.

That brings me to Article 6(2)(b): I wonder whether HB would terminate in a case where the older member of the couple is the legacy DWP claimant? Is there a nanosecond in which they become a mixed age couple under the working age HB Regs, then cease to be such a couple when the working age benefit ends because the claimant has reached SPC age?  If so, HB would terminate under Article 6(2)(b)

In practice I think most couples in that situation would end up claiming UC anyway because the loss of the DWP benefit will leave them without any income for living costs - then HB would end through natural migration.

*Article 7 of the No 23 Order has been amended from 14 January so that any new HB claim by a mixed age couple must be made by the older member of the couple.  That is already in force now.  But for claimants who were already on HB before 14 January, all the above comments apply in the same way no matter who is the claimant.

Can I check that I’m understanding you correctly please?

Say we have a mixed-age couple whereby younger member is claiming contributory ESA and the older member gets some State Pension and they’re claiming HB. In this case, the HB is assessed as per working age regs and therefore they can’t take advantage of savings provisions post-15-May and claim PC?

Same couple, same situation but the younger partner doesn’t claim anything but they’re also receiving HB. In this case, the HB is assessed under HB for pensioners and so they can take advantage of savings provisions post-15-May?

     
HB Anorak
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Both of those couples are claiming HB under the SPC age regs.

I wasn’t sufficiently precise in my terminology in the earlier post: HB is paid under the working age regs in a case where the claimant or partner is on a means tested working age DWP benefit: IS, JSA(ib) or ESA(ir) or even, if they occupy supported/temp acc, UC.  In any other case, a mixed age couple gets HB under the SPC age regs.

The only mixed age couples who don’t have a transitionally protected right to claim Pension Credit are those on IS, JSA(ib), ESA(ir) or UC.

     
Paul_Treloar_AgeUK
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HB Anorak - 01 February 2019 03:24 PM

Both of those couples are claiming HB under the SPC age regs.

I wasn’t sufficiently precise in my terminology in the earlier post: HB is paid under the working age regs in a case where the claimant or partner is on a means tested working age DWP benefit: IS, JSA(ib) or ESA(ir) or even, if they occupy supported/temp acc, UC.  In any other case, a mixed age couple gets HB under the SPC age regs.

The only mixed age couples who don’t have a transitionally protected right to claim Pension Credit are those on IS, JSA(ib), ESA(ir) or UC.

Thanks for the clarification Peter, much appreciated.