If Universal Credit has been introduced where you live, some of the information in this set of pages may not apply to you. For an introduction to Universal Credit, click here
The benefit cap sets a maximum total amount of benefit you can get per week.
The amount of the cap depends on two things:
- Whether you are single or part of a couple;
- Whether you live within Greater London or outside it.
|Outside Greater London||257.69||384.62|
|Within Greater London||296.35||442.31|
(Before 7th November 2016 it did not matter whether you lived within Greater London or not: all that mattered was whether you were single or a couple. The figures were £350 per week for a single person, and £500 per week for a couple. So for a single person who lives outside Greater London, for example, their benefit cap went down on 7th November 2016 by nearly £100 per week.)
Not everyone is affected by the Cap. The Cap does not apply to you in these circumstances:
- If you are not entitled to Housing Benefit. So if you own your home, for example, you don’t need to worry about it.
- If you are old enough to get Pension Credit and are not getting Income Support, income based Employment and Support Allowance, or income based Jobseeker's Allowance (and if you are old enough to get Pension Credit and you are getting Income Support etc, why? You should move over to Pension Credit straightaway!).
- If you get Working Tax Credit.
- If you get Employment and Support Allowance including the Support Component (so if you just get the assessment rate, or get the work-related activity component, you are not exempt).
- If you or your partner get Disability Living Allowance, Attendance Allowance, or Personal Independence Payment, War Pensions, or Armed Forces Independence Payment, even if you’re not actually getting one of them because you are in a care home or hospital.
- Benefits related to industrial injuries (like Industrial Injuries Disablement Benefit).
Even if you don’t fit any of the groups above, you might not be affected by the gap straightaway:
You get a Grace Period of 39 weeks before the Cap is applied if:
- You or your partner were working for at least 50 of the 52 weeks before your work ended, and you (or your partner, if they were the one working) were not getting Income Support, Employment and Support Allowance, or Jobseeker's Allowance. The Grace Period starts on the day after your last day of work.
Next Question: do all benefits count towards the Cap?
No, they don’t. These are the benefits that you have to add up to see if you have reached the Cap:
- These are the common ones that are most likely to apply to you: Income Support, Jobseeker's Allowance, Employment and Support Allowance, Housing Benefit, Child Benefit, Child Tax Credit, Maternity Allowance
- And here’s the ones that are a bit rarer, perhaps: Bereavement Allowance, Incapacity Benefit, Severe Disablement Allowance, Widowed Mother’s Allowance, Widowed Parent’s Allowance, Widow’s Pension
until November 2016 Carer's Allowance and Guardian's Allowance did
count. Now they don't. So if you are on one of these benefits, or
your partner is, or you are responsible for a young person who
gets Carer's Allowance, you don't need to worry about it bringing
you nearer (or over) the cap anymore.
If a benefit is not on that list it doesn’t get included.
How does the Cap reduce your benefit?
If the local authority adds up all your benefit income and it adds up to more than the Cap, your Housing Benefit is reduced by that amount.
can’t lose ALL your Housing Benefit, although it gets pretty
close. The local authority must leave you with 50p per week. You
cannot lose money from other benefits.
What can you do if you're affected by the cap?
Because of the way that the benefit cap works, you are most likely to be affected by the cap if you have a lot of children. You might also be affected by the cap if you have to pay a very high rent.
If your Housing Benefit is reduced because of the benefit cap, you should check that the correct cap is being applied to you, and that the decision maker was using benefits you are actually receiving. You should also check to see if any of the exceptions apply to you.
If all that checks out, you have one remaining option. You can apply for a Discretionary Housing Payment from your local authority (council). This is a top-up of your Housing Benefit you can sometimes get if they agree that your situation is unusual and difficult. The problem is the word ‘discretionary’: it means you have no right to this help. However this should not put you off applying: if you do apply, make sure you give them as much detail as you can about any particular problems you and your family are dealing with.