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‘What is the Benefit Cap?’

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:
The weekly figures are as follows:

Single Person Couple
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:

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:

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:
icon-key1.jpgNote: 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.

icon-key1.jpgYou 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.