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The Benefit Cap - what you need to know

This advice applies to Northern Ireland
If you want to speak to someone about changes to benefits, you can phone the independent welfare changes helpline for free on 0808 802 0020 or contact your local Citizens Advice.

The Benefit Cap is a limit on the total amount of certain benefits you can get if you are working age.

The Benefit Cap will only affect you if you're getting Housing Benefit or Universal Credit. If the cap affects you, your Housing Benefit or Universal Credit is reduced.

Read this page to find out more about how you might be affected by the Benefit Cap.

How will the Benefit Cap affect you?

If the cap applies to you, this means that if your income from certain benefits is more than the cap, your benefit will be cut. The amount of money you get above the cap limit will be taken off your Housing Benefit or Universal Credit.

This will only affect you if you're getting Housing Benefit or Universal Credit. No deductions will be made to your other benefits because of the cap. This means that if you don’t receive Housing Benefit or Universal Credit, your benefits can’t be capped.

How much is the cap?

From 7 November 2016 the cap is:

  • £384.62 a week if you're a couple - with or without dependent children
  • £384.62 a week if you're a lone parent with dependent children
  • £257.69 a week if you're a single person without children.

Housing Benefit

If you don’t receive enough Housing Benefit, the cap won’t be applied in full.

However, some people could lose all their Housing Benefit, except for a nominal amount of 50p which will continue to be paid.

Universal Credit

The cap is applied slightly differently under Universal Credit. This is because any childcare costs you get as part of Universal Credit aren't counted when your benefit income is being worked out.

Who is exempt from the cap?

Some people are exempt from the Benefit Cap. This means their benefit isn't capped, even if their benefit income is above the limit of the cap.

For example, your benefit won't be capped if:

  • you get Working Tax Credit
  • you get Disability Living Allowance or Personal Independence Payment
  • you have reached the age for getting Pension Credit - although you may not be exempt if you're in a couple where one of you is above this age and one of you isn't.

This isn't a complete list of exemptions.

Which benefits are included in the cap?

The cap will apply to your household income from most benefits, including Child Tax Credit. However, there are some benefits which the cap won't apply to. These benefits are ignored when working out your total benefit income.

How will you know if you are affected?

If your household is affected by the Benefit Cap, the Northern Ireland Housing Executive will write to you to tell you that your Housing Benefit will go down. The letter will tell you how they calculated how much your Housing Benefit should reduce. If you do not agree, you can ask for them to review their calculation. Affected households will have the Benefit Cap applied within three months from 31 May 2016.

What help can you get?

If you are getting one of the benefits included in the cap on the date the Benefit Cap is introduced, you may be entitled to a supplementary payment for up to four years to make up for any financial loss.

If you are not eligible for a supplementary payment, you may be able to get a Discretionary Housing Payment.

Next steps

Other useful information

  • You can find more information about the Benefit Cap on the nidirect website at www.nidirect.gov.uk
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