The Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) has appeared to use Brexit as cover to ‘sneak’ out details of a benefit cut. And for the people affected, the potential £7,000 loss is a big deal.
The DWP: a good day to bury bad news
As Alex Tiffin wrote on the Universal Credit Sufferer website, DWP parliamentary under-secretary Guy Opperman put out a written statement on Monday 14 January. It was to do with Pension Credits. Currently, the DWP tops up people’s pensions if they’re on a low income. But the Tory-led coalition government changed this in principle in 2012. It was part of the Welfare Reform Act. Now, if one member of a couple is below state pension age, then the older person will no longer be entitled to Pension Credits. This is unless one of them claims Housing Benefit.
The announcement the DWP buried with Brexit gives the date the change will finally come into force. As Opperman noted:
I set out to Parliament last year that this change would be implemented once Universal Credit was available nationally for new claims. Today I can confirm that this change will be introduced from 15th May 2019.
Social media says…
Tiffin said he thought the DWP ‘hoped nobody would notice’:
💥💥DWP sneaks in £7,300 a year cut to Pension Credit couples with a working age member.
Sneaking out bad news the night before the Brexit Vote in the hope nobody noticed…
More #UniversalCredit woes in 2019.
Please READ & SHARE https://t.co/O9ROHWZaaz
— Alex Tiffin (@RespectIsVital) January 15, 2019
People on Twitter were not happy. Bob Miller said it would affect him:
That's the first #WTF award today – I'm 63 and would get my pension when I'm 66 (the one I've paid NI contributions since I was 18) – my missus is 52 and has spent the last 20 years looking after our kids (with mental health problems) 😱#NeverTrustATory pic.twitter.com/w2uiTTDJSy
— Bob Miller (@hctbn) January 15, 2019
Lou made a good point:
And why they class pensions as a benefit, is beyond me!
— Lou #DPFC 🔴🇬🇧 (@louRmedia69) January 15, 2019
“The Tories have no soul”
Tiffin told The Canary:
The DWP has already shown it can’t cope with an increased workload and now it wants to add pensioners to the mix. It’s ridiculous. My parents will be directly affected by this move. My severely disabled mother will now face a Work Capability Assessment. Add to the fact she’s a WASPI woman, and it’s a double blow.
Over £7,000 per year less is a major income drop for anyone. The Tories have no soul. Nobody is safe anymore.
A new group of claimants?
As Age UK said of the change:
The older partner could be financially better off living alone.
In 2016, up to 3.4 million claimants were enitled to the benefit. So the impact of this could be wide-reaching – as the younger person in a couple could be forced to find work.
Also, as Tiffin noted, it puts women who have seen their retirement age pushed back by the government, so-called WASPI women, in an even worse position.
These women should have been able to retire by now. But due to government changes, they don’t get their pensions yet. So with the loss of Pension Credits, these women may have to claim Universal Credit. This could mean they will possibly be subjected to the sanctions regime. In other words, the DWP is potentially creating a whole new group of claimants that it can force to look for work.
But maybe this was the government’s plan all along. Because it looks like another easy way for it to save money. Also, it may massage the employment figures. No wonder then that it tried to sneak out the announcement under the cover of Brexit.
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