Can you lose your widow's pension if you move in to care for someone ill?

I am in contact with a carer who is 74 years old. Her husband died some years ago and she has not remarried. However, she is currently living with an old friend who has been very ill since Christmas.

Before Christmas she used to only spend three days a week with him, but he has become so ill recently that she does not want to leave him alone in the house as he has no-one else to look after him and he does not want carers to come in.

She is worried that if she does not go home soon, ‘someone’ will find out and she will lose her widow’s pension. Please can you help me advise her.

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When they work out how much income the household has coming in, the authorities take account of everyone, including unmarried partners.

This means that if the person being cared for or the person moving in is in receipt of means-tested benefits then they will have to be reassessed as a joint claim.

In most cases this would result in a lower amount of benefit being payable. 

On the other hand, the person moving in would presumably no longer have household bills and so on from the home they used to live in, so there might be some savings to be made.

Just to repeat – if someone moves in then the means-tested benefits of both the person moving in and the person already living there could be reassessed.

Another important thing to bear in mind is that any person living on their own can qualify for a 25 per cent ‘single person discount’ on their council tax bill. This is available regardless of income.

But if another person moves in permanently, this entitlement is lost and the council tax bill will rise. It is important to notify the local authority if this is the case.

Turning now to company pensions, if someone with a widow’s pension from a company pension moves in with someone, it is important to check with the pension scheme if this has any effect on their entitlement, as the rules do vary from scheme to scheme.

For example, many public service schemes would no longer stop a widow’s pension where someone who retires today remarries or cohabits, but might still do so for people who retired long ago when the rules were different.

The key thing is to contact each individual scheme that is paying you a widow’s pension and to get written confirmation of the rules, as phone conversations can easily be misunderstood.

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