PENSIONERS have three weeks to apply for pension credit or lose thousands a year under welfare changes.

From May 15 the changes mean that both partners in a couple need to be of state pension age to be able to claim pension credit or housing benefit.

It means couples, where only one is a pensioner and the other not yet of pensionable age, will be denied pension credit and housing benefit and instead be told to apply for universal credit instead.

Analysis of the amount they would receive shows that the difference is as much as £6000 a year.

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Chris Stephens, Glasgow South West SNP MP led a debate in Westminster on the issue and urged people to make sure they claim before the cut off date.

He said: “Pensioners could face a heavy financial penalty for having a younger partner. This could affect the health and wellbeing of those affected and is likely to increase the numbers of older people living in poverty.

“Pensioners should not be put in a situation where they could be better off living alone and claiming Pension Credit than living as a couple receiving Universal Credit. The change could put pressure on existing relationships and may affect the decisions of couples wanting to live together.”

The statistics. from Age UK, show a mixed age couple renting a one bed council tax band C property in Glasgow, paying rent of £510 a month, receiving a state pension of £160 per week would receive £19,097 a year in total on pension credit, including housing benefit.

It includes the state pension of £160 per week, £95 a week in pension credit and £117 a week in housing benefit.

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However if they were to receive universal credit, they would get £12,345 a year.

It includes the state pension, £72 a week universal credit and no separate housing benefit payment.

The couple would lose £6752 a year or £140 a week.

Mr Stephens added: “The Universal Credit system was designed for people of working age, not pensioners. For example, it includes no additional support for a couple where one member is not expected to work because they are over State Pension age.

If the change does go ahead, it is essential that benefit take up is maximised in advance of 15 May, and that those receiving benefits at the time are aware of the implications of a change in circumstances.”