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The Benefit Cap - what you need to know
From 31 May 2016 there is limit on the total amount of benefit you can get if you're working age. This is called the Benefit Cap.
At first, the Benefit Cap will only affect you if you're getting Housing Benefit. Later, it could also affect you if you are getting Universal Credit.
It's important to know if you'll be affected, so that you can plan for the changes. If the cap affects you, your Housing Benefit or Universal Credit will go down.
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 benefit.
At first, this will only affect you if you're getting Housing Benefit.
No deductions will be made to your other benefits because of the cap. This means that if you don’t receive Housing Benefit, your benefits can’t be capped.
However, eventually, the cap will reduce your Universal Credit. This means that even if you're not currently affected by the cap because you don't get Housing Benefit, the cap could affect you if you start getting Universal Credit.
How much is the cap?
From 31 May 2016 the cap is:
- £500 a week if you're a couple - with or without dependent children
- £500 a week if you're a lone parent with dependent children
- £350 a week if you're a single person without children.
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.
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.
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.
Will anyone be exempt from the cap?
Some people will be 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. This includes people getting Working Tax Credit and people who 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.
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.
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.
- The Benefit Cap and Housing Benefit
- The Benefit Cap and Housing Benefit - what support is available?
Other useful information
- You can find more information about the Benefit Cap on the nidirect website at www.nidirect.gov.uk