Caroline Abrahams, Charity Director at Age UK has accused the Work and Pensions Secretary of “sneaking out” changes to pension credits that could leave some £7,000 worse off.
Thousands of pensioners who have working-age partners could lose up to £7,000 a year in top-ups as part of rule changes that will make them claim universal credit as a couple.
Ms Abrahams told talkRADIO’s Julia Hartley-Brewer: “The strange thing about this is that this provision has actually been on the statute books since 2012 and over and over again the government has listen to reason and decided not to implement it.
“We are really rather surprised that the government has decided to implement it now, particularly as the Secretary of State Amber Rudd gave a very compassionate speech last week talking about wanting to get the best out of Universal Credit.
“It is all to do with the mess of Universal Credit. So the fact that she gave the speech and then snuck out this change this week, we are very unhappy about it, partly because if you are going to be affected by it, you will need to know.”
Ms Abrahams described the pension credit changes as a “toyboy tax”.
“We have called it the ‘toyboy tax’ because the bigger the gap between you as a couple, the longer you will have to wait for the higher amount of benefit,” she said.
“The problem is that it will make an absolutely enormous difference to the people concerned. We think it could make £7k difference to people already on a very low income.”
She added that pensioners could now be better off “splitting” from their partner.
“We are actually ending up in a situation where a pensioner would be much better off if they split up from their partner and just claimed on their own,” she said.
“Is that really what we want? Do we really want to give a strong incentive to couples who are together and enjoying life to actually split up?”