The Benefit Cap
What is the Benefit Cap?
In 2013, a limit was introduced to cap the total amount of benefit (including Housing Benefit) that an out-of-work household could receive. This is so that nobody who is out of work could receive more in benefit payments than the average wage paid to people in work.
Benefits that are affected
The cap applies to the total amount of money that the people in your household get from the following benefits:
- Universal Credit
- Bereavement Allowance
- Carer’s Allowance
- Child Benefit
- Child Tax Credit
- Employment and Support Allowance (unless you get the support component)
- Guardian’s Allowance
- Housing Benefit
- Incapacity Benefit
- Income Support
- Jobseeker’s Allowance
- Maternity Allowance
- Severe Disablement Allowance
- Widowed Parent’s Allowance (or Widowed Mother’s Allowance or Widows Pension you started getting before 9 April 2001)
Benefits that are not affected
- Discretionary Housing Payments
- Council Tax support / reduction
- Budgeting loans / advances
- One-off Council crisis payments
- Child Maintenance Payments
- Winter Fuel Payments
- Statutory Maternity / Paternity / Adoption pay
- Statutory Sick Pay
- Housing Benefit for supported accommodation
How much is the Benefit Cap currently?
The current weekly Benefit Cap is set at:
- £500 a week for single parents and couples with children
- £350 a week for single people
The cap applies to the benefits you get as a household, which includes benefits received by you, your partner and dependant children who live with you. Your Housing Benefit or Universal Credit will be reduced to ensure that you do not get more than the benefit cap level.
Changes to the Benefit Cap
In July 2015, the government announced further reductions to the benefit cap and these reductions will come into force with effect from Autumn 2016:
- £384.62 per week for single parents and couples with children
- £257.69 per week for single people
Who won’t be affected?
You won't be affected by the benefit cap if anyone in your household qualifies for Working Tax Credit or gets any of the following benefits:
- Disability Living Allowance
- Personal Independence Payment
- Attendance Allowance
- Industrial Injuries Benefits (and equivalent payments as part of a war disablement pension or the Armed Forces Compensation Scheme)
- Employment and Support Allowance, if you get the support component
- War Widow’s or War Widower’s Pension
- War pensions
- Armed Forces Compensation Scheme
- Armed Forces Independence Payment
What to do if you will be affected
If you think you will be affected by the Benefit Cap changes, please contact one of our Financial Inclusion Officers, who may be able to help you by:
- Referring you to our Employment, Support and Training team, who can offer you assistance with practical job hunting help and tailored training programmes. They can also help to boost your confidence, self-esteem and presentation skills.
- Helping you to look at your income and outgoings to see if you can save any money to account for the benefit changes.
- Refer you to one of our Energy Advisers to check whether you can make savings on your energy or water bill.
- Refer you to one of our Welfare Benefit Advisers to check you are receiving all the benefits you are entitled to.
- Where you are struggling with debts they can refer you to external agencies, such as, the Citizens Advice Bureau or Payplan.
- Assist you with applying for a Discretionary Housing Payment to help you cover your housing costs in the short term.
Thanks to Gov.uk for the information on this page. Page last updated 25th May 2016.
We've got lots of information about Universal Credit including useful links, FAQs, how to prepare and a personal planner below...
The Department of Work and Pensions (DWP) have provided documents and tools to support people getting ready to claim Universal Credit:
- To find out more about Universal Credit, read the DWP's introduction PDF
- To help prepare you for Universal Credit, the DWP have created a personal planner that takes around 5-10 minutes to complete. It will provide you with information on any changes you may need to make. Visit the planner now.
- The DWP have prepared a list of frequently asked questions, view them here.
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What is Universal Credit?
Universal Credit is one benefit for working-age people that replaces several existing ones, namely: Housing Benefit, Income Support, Job Seeker’s Allowance (Income-based) and Employment and Support Allowance (Income-based) and Tax Credits.
Will it save me filling out of lots of separate applications?
Unfortunately not. These will still be separate:
- Child Benefit
- Council Tax Support Allowance
- Disability Living Allowance and its replacement, Personal Independence Payment
- Contribution-based benefits, such as Job Seeker’s Allowance Contribution-Based and Contribution-Based Employment and Support Allowance.
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What’s happening about Pension Credit?
Nothing at the moment. Pension Credit will continue as it is.
When is Universal Credit coming to our area?
Universal Credit is being rolled out for new job-seeking claimants during 2015 and 2016 and it is rolling out as follows:
- 16 March 2015: Southampton and Wiltshire
- 4 May 2015: Eastleigh
- 29 June 2015: Bournemouth, Christchurch, Poole and East Dorset
- 21 September 2015: Reading, Test Valley and Winchester
- 28 September 2015: Bracknell, Slough, South Bucks (Slough Job Centre), Windsor & Maidenhead and Wokingham
- 12 October 2015: Chichester
- 16 November 2015: Aylesbury and South Bucks (Wycombe Job Centre) and Wycombe
- 7 December 2015: New Forest
- 8 February 2016: East Hampshire, Hart and Rushmore
- 15 February 2016: Guilford
- 29 February 2016: Woking
- 28 March 2016: Basingstoke & Dean, Fareham, Gosport, Havant and Portsmouth
When will it affect me if I’m already receiving Tax Credits or Housing Benefit?
If your circumstances do not change, at some point between October 2015 and October 2017, you will have to claim and move across to Universal Credit.
Will I get the same amount of money on Universal Credit as I do at the moment?
The rules for Universal Credit have tried to copy some of the benefits it replaces. Some people will receive more than the total of their existing benefits. Others will be entitled to less money under Universal Credit, but they will not see their benefits cut straight away. Instead, their benefits will be frozen until Universal Credit catches up. For example, if your Universal Credit award is £240 per week and you currently get £250, you will still get £250. In April, the Universal Credit rate might go up to £246, but you will stay on £250. The following year, the Universal Credit rate is £252, so you move up to £252.
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How will I know when to apply?
You will receive a letter between now and October 2017, telling you that you will need to apply for Universal Credit.
Where do I get a form?
You will need to apply for Universal Credit online. If you don’t have online access at home, you will need to do this at a library or a public access point. The website is: www.gov.uk/apply-universal-credit
I’ve never used a computer. That last answer filled me with dread!
Don’t panic! There’s lots of time to become computer-literate before the changes come in, and lots of places that can help. If you’re looking for a free or low cost computer course, then you can call 0800 77 1234 to be directed to your nearest UK Online Centre or text ‘online’ and your postcode to 80809. Texts cost 25p + your standard network charge. Ask friends or relatives, and join your local library. You’ll normally only need two forms of identity to join.
How am I going to send my wage slips in if it’s all online?
The plan is that you won’t have to. The DWP will directly receive details of your earnings each month from Revenue and Customs, and adjust your Universal Credit accordingly. If you earned less, you’ll receive more, and if you earned more, you’ll receive less. You should still inform the DWP as soon as possible after a change in circumstances.
What about my rent increase letter? Do I need to tell DWP when my rent changes?
Yes, you will need to tell them yourself. Currently, this will be by ringing the Universal Credit Helpline on 0345 600 0723* and sending a copy of your rent increase letter.
*The helpline is open Mon-Fri 8am-6pm. Calls cost 4p per minute from a BT landline plus 15p call set-up charge. From mobiles, calls cost 40p per minute. If you're worried about call charges, you can request a callback.
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Will my rent be paid directly to my landlord?
No. You will receive one payment of Universal Credit, including all the money to support you and your family, and the money to pay your rent. You will then need to pay your rent yourself out of this money. You will be responsible for ensuring your rent is paid. Radian expect rent to be paid in advance weekly or monthly. If you are concerned about your ability to pay rent, you can discuss this with the DWP or Radian to look at alternative payment arrangements - call us on 0300 123 1 567.
How do I pay my rent from my Universal Credit?
The easiest way would be to set-up a Direct Debit that can be paid from your bank account direct to your rent account when your Universal Credit payment is due. Alternatively, you can set up a standing order, pay online, or by mobile phone app by scanning the QR code on your rent statement. You can pay over the phone by debit card or credit card, or you can pay by payment card at a Paypoint location. To pay online or for more information, visit our 'Make a payment' page.
How often is Universal Credit paid?
Universal Credit will be paid monthly, on the same date each month. If you are making a new claim for Universal Credit, you can ask for an advance to help you budget in the first month. Speak to your work coach at the Job Centre when you receive your first appointment for more information.
What is Radian doing to prepare?
We have increased the size of the benefits team. We are also working hard to keep residents informed, and we are looking at how we can support people to go online. We have increased the dates on which we allow direct debit payments and we’re keeping a close eye on the plans for Universal Credit, which are changing all the time.
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