A gay couple from Kent claim that the introduction of the Civil Partnerships Act has meant a reduction in their level of state benefits of over £6000 per year.

Andrew Brettell, 63 and his 44-year-old partner have cohabited for 18 years and have held a joint mortgage since 1989.

Mr Brettell claims that ill health has meant he receives a pension credit. However, since the introduction of the act, his partner’s income will be considered when assessing his entitlements to benefits.

The changes bring gay couples in line with the way that the Department of Work and Pensions (DWP) treat unmarried straight couples on benefits. They will now be treated as a single-family unit and are not entitled to separate benefits or pensions.

In Mr Brettle’s case, this amounts to over £6000 a year: “I am very concerned that the changes in benefit rules will adversely affect our finances. My pension credit is means-tested and my partner’s income will now be taken into account. I will lose £460 a month in pension credit, plus housing benefit of £50 per month. My total benefits loss is £6,120 a year; plus the loss of free dental and prescription charges.”

He claims that the changes in his benefits status will adversely affect his relationship with his partner: “the knowledge that I will soon have no income of my own, and be totally dependent on my partner, is adding considerably to my depression and lack of self-esteem.”

The DWP does not comment on individual cases but a spokeswoman for John Hutton, the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions explained that the benefits system has not been changed but that gay couples will be treated in the same way as straight couples: “As a result of the new Civil Partnership legislation same-sex couples will be treated in the same way as opposite-sex couples when their benefits are being processed. This new legislation gives gay and lesbian couples many of the same rights and responsibilities as married partners.

“It is important to note that this new legislation is about equality. It ensures civil partners receive equal treatment to married couples in legal matters such as inheritance tax or be entitled to any work place benefits that are extended to employees’ partners such as health insurance. It will also provide some peace of mind should their partner die ensuring that they do not loose their joint home and that they are not excluded from their partners’ funeral.”