The Department for Work and Pensions has announced it will limit access to pension credits for couples from May this year.
The change was set out in a statement by pensions minister Guy Opperman yesterday.
It will restrict pension credits for couples where both are not over state pension age which is currently 65 for men and women.
In 2012, parliament reformed the welfare system to ensure that couples, where one person is of working age and the other person is over state pension age could access support if needed.
When single people reach state pension age they move from working age benefits to pension age benefits.
Currently, couples can choose to make that transition when the older partner of the couple reaches state pension age.
Mixed age couples with a partner under state pension age already in receipt of pension credit will be unaffected by the change that will be introduced on 15 May.
Opperman said: “Pension credit is designed to provide long-term support for pensioner households who are no longer economically active. It is not designed to support working age claimants.
“This change will ensure that the same work incentives apply to the younger partner as apply to other people of the same age, and taxpayer support is directed where it is needed most.”
Royal London director of policy and former pensions minister, Steve Webb, told the Financial Times because pension credit tends to be higher than working age benefits the change could leave some older couples more than £7,000 worse off.
“A difference of just one day in the timing of a claim could cost a couple over £7,000 in the following year, as well as putting pressure on the younger member of the couple to seek work.
“Under the proposed rules, couples where one partner is over pension age and is not expected to seek work will get the same rate as a couple where both partners are under pension age and both are expected to seek work.”
Webb suggested DWP had strategically published notice of the change the day before a large parliamentary vote on Brexit.
“People who may be affected deserve to know about this change and not have it sneaked out on a day when ministers were no doubt hoping that everyone’s attention was directed somewhere else.”