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The Benefit Cap and Housing Benefit - who is exempt?

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.

From 31 May 2016 there is a limit on the total amount of benefit you can get if you're working age. This is called the Benefit Cap. To start with it will only affect people getting Housing Benefit, although eventually it will also affect people getting Universal Credit.

Some people are exempt from the Benefit Cap. Read this page to find out if you're exempt from the Benefit Cap.

What does it mean if you're exempt from the cap?

If you're exempt from the Benefit Cap, this means your benefit won't be capped, even if your benefit income is above the limit of the cap.

You might be exempt from the cap if:

  • you qualify for Working Tax Credit
  • you're above the qualifying age for Pension Credit
  • you get certain benefits for sickness, disability or caring or a war pension
  • you or your partner had been in employment for at least 50 or the 52 weeks before your last day of work.

If you qualify for Working Tax Credit

You will be exempt from the Benefit Cap if you or your partner works enough hours to qualify for Working Tax Credit. This applies even if your entitlement to Working Tax Credit is nil.

If you're over the qualifying age for Pension Credit

You will be exempt from the Benefit Cap if you are over the qualifying age for Pension Credit. This doesn't mean you actually have to be getting Pension Credit - just that you've reached an age when you can apply for it if you want to.

If you're a woman, the qualifying age for Pension Credit is the same as your state pension age.

If you're a man, the qualifying age for Pension Credit is not the same as your state pension age. You will need to find out the state pension age of a woman who is the same age as you to find out when you qualify for Pension Credit.

  • The GOV.UK website has an online calculator which tells you when you can get Pension Credit, available at www.gov.uk

If you're in a 'mixed-age' couple

If you're in a couple where one of you is over the qualifying age for Pension Credit and the other is not, you will still be exempt from the Benefit Cap.

However, there is an exception to this if you're claiming Housing Benefit. You won't be exempt if you're claiming Housing Benefit and one of you gets a working-age means-tested benefit.

The working-age means-tested benefits are:

  • Income Support
  • income-based Jobseekers Allowance
  • income-related Employment and Support Allowance.

If you get certain benefits

The Benefit Cap won’t apply if either you or your partner get any of the following benefits:

  • Disability Living Allowance (DLA) 
  • Personal Independence Payment (PIP)
  • Armed Forces Independence Payment (AFIP)
  • Attendance Allowance (AA)
  • Carer's Allowance (CA), or you have an entitlement to Carer's Allowance but aren't actually being paid it because you're getting another benefit instead
  • Guardian's Allowance
  • the support component of Employment and Support Allowance
  • Industrial Injuries Benefit and equivalent payments as part of a war disablement pension or armed forces compensation scheme
  • War Widow's and Widower's Pension.

You will also be exempt from the Benefit Cap if a child or young person who you are responsible for and who lives with you gets:

  • Disability Living Allowance
  • Personal Independence Payment
  • Armed Forces Independence Payment
  • Carer's Allowance (even if it's not actually being paid because they're entitled to another benefit instead)
  • Guardian's Allowance

If you are in a care home or hospital

You are also exempt from the Benefit Cap if you would be entitled to one of these benefits, but the only reason you can't get it is because you are:

  • living in a care home
  • a hospital in-patient

If you've been employed for at least 50 weeks

You will get a certain grace period from the cap if you've been employed for at least 50 weeks out of the 52 weeks leading up to your last day of work. If this is the case, you'll be exempt from the cap for up to 39 weeks from the date your job ended.

If you have children

If you have children, you will not be automatically exempt from the Benefit Cap. There is help available for families who will be affected by the Benefit Cap. 

How will you know if you're affected?

If your household is affected by the Benefit Cap, the Northern Ireland Housing Executive (NIHE) 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. 

Disputing the decision

There is no right of appeal against a Benefit Cap decision. If you do not agree with the decision, you can ask the NIHE to  review their calculation. You can find details of how to do this in your Housing Benefit award notification.

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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