Pension Credit is a means-tested benefit for people who have reached the minimum qualifying age, which is going up to 66.
This is in line with the increase in State Pension age for women to 65 and then the further increase to 66 for men and women.
Pension Credit is made up of two different parts: a guarantee element and a savings element.
The guarantee element of Pension Credit tops up your weekly income. Extra amounts can be paid if you have special circumstances, for example, if you’re a carer or have a severe disability.
If you’re 65 or over and have savings or income above the basic State Pension level, you may also be eligible for the savings element of Pension Credit. This can increase your weekly income.
How much you’ll get - weekly rates
Guarantee element :
Single people - up to £145.40
Couples - up to £222.05
Single people - up to £18.06
Couples - up to £22.89
The government is changing the rules in relation to couples who have one member over the Pension Credit qualifying age and one member under it. From the point when this change is introduced, such couples will no longer be able to start claiming Pension Credit.
However, this change won’t affect such couples who already receive Pension Credit. They’ll be able to continue to receive Pension Credit, unless there’s a change in their circumstances that ends their entitlement to Pension Credit. If this happens, they’d then need to claim Universal Credit.
It hasn’t yet been decided when these changes will take effect, but it won’t be before October 2013.
You can claim Pension Credit if you’re working, although your earnings will affect how much benefit you receive. However, Pension Credit disregards some of the earnings - £5 a week for single people, £10 a week for couples and £20 a week for certain other groups like those who are severely disabled.
For further details and to find out the exact date when you can claim your State Pension and Pension Credit, speak to a welfare rights adviser or visit gov.uk.
Changes to Pension Credit
People currently over the qualifying age for Pension Credit can also get Housing Benefit and tax credits. However, after Universal Credit is launched, from a date yet to be decided, Housing Benefit and tax credits will be discontinued.
From this point, Pension Credit will be changed to include a new element called Housing Credit. This will be for people of pension age who are eligible for support with rent.
Once Child Tax Credit is no longer available, there will also be an additional amount for dependent children in the guarantee element.
How can I apply?
Apply online at gov.uk, or call the Pension Service on 0800 99 1234, textphone 0800 169 0133.
In Northern Ireland you can apply by calling the Pension Credit application line on freephone 0808 100 6165. You can also visit nidirect.gov.uk
Do you have a private pension that you can access earlier than planned because of your illness? This could provide you with a lump sum payment and/or monthly income. It’s best to discuss this with a welfare rights adviser, because personal pensions can affect your entitlement to certain benefits.
Tracing a pension
The Pension Tracing Service can help you trace an old pension scheme if the details are unclear or lost. This service is free.