My husband worked 20 hours a week while on pension credit – could he get in trouble over it? Steve Webb replies
Pension Credit: My husband worked 20 hours a week – could he get in trouble over this?
My husband was working for just over a year in 2017 and 2018.
We get a state pension and pension credit plus some other benefits, but as we have an AIP [Assessed Income Period] he didn’t think it was necessary to mention it.
He is now getting very upset because of this, even though the work was only for 20 hours a week. Will he be in a lot of trouble about it now?
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Steve Webb replies: Before I respond to your specific question, it might be helpful if I explain what an ‘Assessed Income Period’ is and what it was for.
Pension credit is a benefit for low income pensioners which was introduced in 2003.
Most recipients have retired and have a relatively stable income, perhaps apart from annual increases in their state and private pensions to keep up with inflation.
The Government therefore decided that rather than have to do complicated recalculations every time someone had a small change in their income, it would set up a system where most recipients would not have to report small changes to their pensions and savings.
Recipients over the age of 65 were given an AIP during which they did not have to report changes to pensions, but they did have to report other changes in circumstances.
For those aged 65-75 these AIPs were generally time limited (after which a full review would be undertaken) but for those over 75 they were often open-ended.
From 2016, the Government decided to do away with the idea of AIPs, but for those who had already been awarded them they would only be phased out gradually.
In your case I’m assuming that an AIP was put in place before April 2016 and was still in force in 2017/18 when your husband did some work.
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I’m afraid that even for someone with an AIP, taking on a job would count as a ‘change in circumstances’ which had to be notified to the Department for Work and Pensions.
The leaflet to accompany the AIP should have listed the things that you did and did not have to notify them about, but I appreciate that these are complicated matters and I can understand why your husband might have been confused.
If you still have the leaflet, you might want to see if it is clear about what to do if you get a job whilst on pension credit.
If your husband were to contact the authorities now there is a very slim chance that they might conclude that he had deliberately set out to defraud them and might take action against him.
But I think this is extremely unlikely. If he voluntarily contacted them (rather than waited for them to contact him), and said he had now realised he should have declared his earnings and wanted to pay back any overpayment, it is hard to imagine a particularly harsh response.
I imagine that they would ask for details of his earnings at the time, work out what pension credit he should have received and then ask for any overpaid benefit to be repaid.
If money is tight for you as a couple you might be asked to set out details of your outgoings and then be able to agree to repay the overpayment in affordable instalments.
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