Falkirk MSP blasts ‘sneaky’ move on pension credits rules

Falkirk West MSP Michael Matheson
Falkirk West MSP Michael Matheson

Falkirk West MSP Michael Matheson has sharply criticised the UK Government for “sneaking out” news about a change to Pension Credit rules he says may cost some local couples up to £7000 a year.

The SNP man says new benefit rules for mixed-aged couples – where one partner is of pension age and the other is of working age – were “quietly released” earlier this week while attention was fixed on the Westminster vote on Theresa May’s Brexit deal.

Couples can currently claim Pension Credit as long as one partner is of pension age.

It is an income-related benefit intended to top up the state pension.

However from May 15, mixed-age couples needing financial support will instead have to claim Universal Credit, which the MSP says will mean far smaller payments.

Charity Age UK has warned the change, set to affect new claimaints, could leave “some of the poorest pensioners paying a hefty price for having a younger partner”.

Mr Matheson said: “Pensioners in Falkirk district with a low income should not be forced to pay the price for Tory austerity.

“I’m also concerned that these new rules could prove a double whammy for women born in the 50s who are affected by the changes in state pension age eligibility and who have an older partner.

“It’s outrageous that the UK Government tried to use the chaos and distraction of Brexit to bury this announcement, showing complete disregard for affected constituents who might lose out on hundreds of pounds a month.

“My SNP colleagues at Westminster will continue to forcefully raise our concerns about the Tory Government’s welfare cuts. “The Scottish Government will keep working hard at Holyrood to tackle poverty and use our limited powers to create a social security system based on equality, fairness and dignity.”