Housing & Benefits

The introduction of the Civil Partnership Act has impacted on other areas of legislation, especially benefits and tax credits, which affect same sex couples even if they have not entered into a civil partnership.

People in same sex couples were previously treated as single or as single parents. Since 5 December 2005, they have been required to declare that they are part of a couple even if they do not enter into a civil partnership. In some cases this will lead to a drop of income which may be substantial for some families. For example, if you have children and are on tax credits, you will lose your single parent allowance, your partner’s income will also be taken into account, and you may find you do not get any more help with childcare.

In a homophobic society, a substantial amount of gay people are fearful about being open about their sexuality. Lesbian mothers often feel twice as vulnerable because their children are involved. They may reluctant to come out to official bodies like the Social Security Agency or Tax Credit Office, and be on their records as a lesbian couple. However, it is to be noted that people who are afraid of registering as a couple with the Social Security Agency or Tax Credit Office will find themselves in a situation of fraud and therefore at risk of being prosecuted if found out.

See the Department of Social Development Leaflet on same sex couples and benefits.

This affects:

  • Income Support
  • Job-seeker’s Allowance
  • All other means-tested benefits
  • Working Tax Credit and Child Tax Credit
  • Child Benefit: Only or eldest children receive a higher rate of Child Benefit

Let’s say you are two women living together, each one with one or more biological children. Prior to moving in together, you have each been receiving the only or eldest child rate for your first-born. From that date, you are expected to declare your relationship to the Child Benefit Office (again, regardless of whether you enter a civil partnership or not). As a couple you will only receive this rate for the eldest of your ‘combined’ children, and the Child Benefit Office will decide which one of you will receive the benefit. If you have both claimed Child Benefit so far, you can choose re-keep claiming separately. You could decide instead that the partner doing most of the childcare or working part-time or on a lower income claims Child Benefit. This is because claiming Child Benefit protects your state pension from suffering from career breaks or drops of income related to having childcare responsibilities.

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