You are now leaving the Turn2us site. Turn2us is not responsible for content on third party sites.


Benefit Cap

Find out more about the Benefit Cap.

1. What is the Benefit Cap?

The Benefit Cap is a limit to the total amount in some benefits that working-age people can receive, even if their full entitlement would otherwise be higher.

Applies to: England, Northern Ireland, Scotland and Wales

Northern Ireland: The Benefit Cap was introduced  in Northern Ireland from 31 May 2016.  See the NI Direct website for more information.

Administered by: Local Authorities for Housing Benefit claimants, Department of Work and Pensions for Universal Credit claimants.

2. Am I affected by the Benefit Cap?

You can use our Benefits Calculator to check whether you are or will be affected by the Benefit Cap. (We tell you if you are affected by the cap on the Results page, in the Notes section for Housing Benefit and Universal Credit).

The Benefit Cap usually applies to you if you or your partner is working age and you receive:

  • Housing Benefit
  • Universal Credit Housing element

The Benefit Cap does not apply to you if you are exempt or you are in a grace period. 

Am I exempt?

You are exempt from the Benefit Cap if:

  • You are claiming Universal Credit and you (and your partner) earn at least the amount you would get for 16 hours per week on national minimum wage
  • You are claiming Housing Benefit and you (and your partner) work enough hours to qualify for Working Tax Credit

How much do I need to work to be exempt?

Universal Credit

If you are claiming Universal Credit and you are earning at least the amount you would get for 16 hours per week at national minimum wage, you are exempt from the Benefit Cap.

The amount you have to earn to be exempt depends on which national minimum wage applies to you. You are exempt if you are:

  • aged 25+ and earning at least £115.20 per week or £499.20 per month
  • aged 21-24 and earning at least £111.20per week or £481.87 per month
  • aged 18-20 and earning at least £88.80 per week or £384.80 per month
  • aged under 18 and earning at least £64 per week or £277.33 per month
  • an apprentice and earning at least £54.40 per week or £235.73 per month

Housing Benefit

If you are claiming Housing Benefit and you are working enough hours to claim Working Tax Credit, you are exempt from the Benefit Cap.

The number of hours you have to work to qualify for Working Tax Credit depends on your situation. If you are:

  • A lone parent, you have to work 16 hours per week
  • A couple with children and one of you is entitled to Carer's Allowance, one of you has to work 16 hours per week
  • A couple with children, you and your partner have to work a total of 24 hours per week and one of you must work at least 16 hours per week
  • Single and aged over 25, you have to work 30 hours per week

Am I in a grace period?

If you are claiming Universal Credit, the Benefit Cap will not be applied for a 9 month grace period if:

  • You (and your partner) earned at least the amount you would get for 16 hours per week at national minimum wage for the previous 12 months

If you are claiming Housing Benefit, the Benefit Cap will not be applied for a 39 week grace period if:

  • You (or your partner) was working for at least 50 out of the previous 52 weeks, and
  • Whilst you (or your partner) were working, you were not entitled to Income Support, Jobseeker's Allowance or Employment and Support Allowance

 

Updated April 2017

 

3. How much is the Benefit Cap?

The current cap is:
•    £442.31 per week (£1,916.67 per month or £23,000 per year) for couples and lone parents in Greater London
•    £384.62 per week (£ 1,666,67 per month or £20,000 per year) for couples and lone parents outside Greater London
•    £296.35 per week (£1,284.17 per month or £15,410 per year) for single adults in Greater London
•    £257.69 per week (£1,116.67 per month or £13,400 per year) for single adults outside Greater London

Which benefits are included in the Benefit Cap?

To work out if you are within the Benefit Cap, the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) adds together the amount you have been awarded of the following benefits:

•    Child Benefit
•    Child Tax Credit
•    Employment and Support Allowance (except when in the Support Group)
•    Housing Benefit (except for households in Supported Exempt Accommodation)
•    Incapacity Benefit
•    Income Support
•    Jobseeker's Allowance
•    Maternity Allowance
•    Reduced Earnings Allowance
•    Severe Disablement Allowance
•    Universal Credit (except the Childcare Costs element)
•    Widowed Parent's Allowance, Widowed Mother's Allowance, Widow's Pension

Any benefits not listed above are not included in the cap.

How is the Benefit Cap applied?

If your total entitlement of the benefits included in the cap is more than the Benefit Cap amount, and the Benefit Cap applies to you, your benefits will be reduced to bring you within the cap amount. 

If you are claiming Housing Benefit, the amount of Housing Benefit that you receive each week will be reduced to the cap amount.

If you are claiming Universal Credit, the amount of Universal Credit that you receive each month will be reduced to the cap amount (except for the Childcare Costs element). If you are entitled to the Childcare Costs element of Universal Credit, this amount is protected and will not be reduced even if this means you receive more than the Benefit Cap amount.
 

Updated April 2018

 

4. What are my options if I am affected by the Benefit Cap?

Once you know if you are going to be affected by the Benefit Cap, and by how much, you then need to find out your options.

Check your entitlement

Use our Benefits Calculator to check you are receiving the right amount of means-tested benefits.

Check whether you are eligible for benefits that are not included in the cap. You may be eligible for benefits like:

•    Contribution-based Jobseeker’s Allowance
•    Contribution-based Employment and Support Allowance
•    Statutory Sick Pay
•    Statutory Maternity Pay
•    Statutory Paternal Pay
•    Statutory Adoption Pay
•    Personal Independence Payment
•    Disability Living Allowance
•    Attendance Allowance

This is not a complete list.  You may want to check our Your Situation pages for other benefits that you may be entitled to.

If you live in Northern Ireland, you may be eligible for a top-up called Supplementary Payment. You can read more about the conditions for receiving this top-up on our Supplementary Payment page.

Become exempt

The Benefit Cap doesn’t apply to you if:
•    You and your partner earn enough or work enough hours to qualify for Working Tax Credit
•    You or your partner receives a disability benefit
•    You or your partner qualifies for a carer benefit
•    You or your partner claims Guardian’s Allowance
•    You or your partner is over Pension Credit age
•    You are in a grace period

You may want to increase your work hours so that you are exempt from the cap.  If you are eligible for a disability benefit that you are not claiming, you may want to claim it to become exempt from the cap.

You can read more about the exemptions and the grace period in the Benefit Cap – Will I be affected by the Benefit Cap? section. 

Address your rent shortfall

If you are struggling to pay your rent because the cap reduces your Housing Benefit or the Housing element of your Universal Credit, you can apply to your local council for Discretionary Housing Payment.  

Your council may also run a Local Welfare Assistance scheme to help people in emergencies.

You may also want to consider moving to cheaper accommodation, in a cheaper area or ask your landlord to agree a rent reduction. 

Get Advice

If you’re not sure whether you can afford to make ends meet and you need advice about what to do next, you can use our Find an Adviser tool to find a benefits or debt advisor near you.
 

Updated January 2017

5. What Government help is available?

Government Help

The Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) provides help with moving from benefits to work.

Your Jobcentre Plus advisor can tell you about different schemes like the Work Programme, Work Clubs and Work Trials to help you apply for jobs and get work experience.  

If you need financial and practical help to start a business, you can ask them about New Enterprise Allowance.

You can find out more about schemes for moving from benefits to work on the "Help with moving from benefits to work" page of the gov.uk website

If you have a disability or mental health problem which makes it difficult for you to attend interviews or keep a job, you may qualify for assistance from the Access to Work programme.  The Access to Work scheme can provide support at work and may also pay for changes or equipment in the workplace.  You can find out more about it on the "Access to Work" page of the gov.uk website.

There are different schemes for helping with childcare which you can read about on our Help with Childcare Costs page.

Other Help

Make sure you have read the section in this guide What are my options if I am affected by the Benefit Cap?

If you are worried that you will be evicted because the benefit cap means you cannot afford your rent, you can ask your local council for help.  Most councils run a Housing Support Service, sometimes called “Floating Support”.  They can provide a support worker to help you take steps to avoid eviction.

You can always use our Find an Adviser tool to search for an advisor near you, for help sorting out your benefits or taking other steps to increase your income.


Updated October 2016