The Government’s reforms to the welfare system are designed to support those who need it and help people into work. We have reduced pensioner poverty to close to historically low levels and the triple lock on the State Pension has helped lift the incomes of millions of pensioners. Since 2010, we have increased the annual level of the basic State Pension by £1,450. In 2018/19 we will spend £121.5 billion on benefits for pensioners and by 2023/24 this rises to £143.5 billion.
In 2012, Parliament voted to modernise the welfare system to ensure that couples, where one person is of working age and the other person is over State Pension age, access support, where it is needed, through the working age benefit regime. This replaces the previous system whereby the household could access either Pension Credit and pension-age Housing Benefit, or working-age benefits.
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.
The Government set out to Parliament last year that this change would be implemented once Universal Credit was available nationally for new claims. On 14th January 2019, the Government confirmed that this change will be introduced from 15th May 2019. The change was being brought into effect in Great Britain through a Commencement Order under the Welfare Reform Act 2012. There was an equivalent Order to introduce the change for Northern Ireland.
The change will not affect mixed age couples who are entitled to Pension Credit and/or pension age Housing Benefit immediately before the implementation date unless their entitlement to both those benefits subsequently ends.
In February 2017, Government published an employer-led Strategy “Fuller Working Lives: A Partnership Approach”, which sets out the importance of Fuller Working Lives for employers and individuals. It also sets out action Government is taking to support older workers to remain in the labour market.
Honourable Members can seek the opportunity to debate the issues raised by this commencement order through applying for an adjournment or Backbench Business Committee debate.
 The Welfare Reform Act 2012 (Commencement No. 31 and Savings and Transitional Provisions and Commencement No. 21 and 23 and Transitional and Transitory Provisions (Amendment)) Order 2019