SNP MSP Kenneth Gibson led a debate on changes to pension credits due to take effect from 15 May, in Holyrood last Thursday (9 May) - just a week after Tory welfare spokesperson Michelle Ballantyne came under renewed pressure for saying she didn’t care “one way or the other” about the changes.
Currently, if one partner in a couple is over the state retirement age and eligible, they can claim pension credit.
However, new changes brought in by the Tories at Westminster will remove that provision forcing the working age partner to claim Universal Credit instead – decreasing payments by £140.44 a week and up to £7,320 annually.
Age Scotland has criticised the announcement warning that it could leave "some of the poorest pensioners paying a hefty price for having a younger partner,” with many WASPI women, and disabled people also predicted to be affected by the cuts.
Holyrood’s Social Security Committee has written to the Department of Work and Pensions, asking them to delay the changes over concerns that there is a lack of awareness of the imminent change.
Kenneth Gibson MSP said:
“This UK Tory Government should be ashamed of how it treats older people.
“This is just the latest in a series of harmful and unnecessary Tory cuts, that will punish pensioners in need simply for having a partner younger than them.”
“Although recent political attention has been focused on Brexit and Theresa May’s imminent departure - life goes on for the hundreds of thousands of people who have seen their incomes slashed, by measures often sneaked out, such as this one, on the day of the first ‘meaningful’ Brexit vote.
“These changes will have a devastating impact on the finances, health and wellbeing of pensioners in Scotland. The Tories must think again, to avoid driving many older people and their partners into poverty.”
Kenneth Gibson S5M-15570
That the Parliament condemns the UK Government’s decision that, from 15 May 2019, newly-retired people whose partners are younger than the state retirement age of 65 will no longer be able to claim pension credit (PC) and must instead claim universal credit (UC) along with their partners; understands that the couple rate of UC is £114.81 a week, compared with £255.25 for a couple receiving PC, which amounts to a potential loss of £7,320 a year; believes that this change could have a devastating impact on couple's finances, health and wellbeing and increase the number of older people in poverty; considers that, if the change comes into force, couples might find themselves in the position of being financially better off if they split up and live apart; is disappointed that the changes were set out in a written statement by Parliamentary Secretary for Pensions and Financial Inclusion, Guy Opperman MP, which was published online on the evening of 14 January 2019; believes that this allowed the announcement to go through largely unnoticed due to the Brexit vote, and notes the calls for the UK Government to reconsider this decision, which, it believes, could drive many older people and their partners in Cunninghame North, Scotland and across the UK into poverty.