The benefit cap sets a limit on the total amount in benefits that most working-age people can claim.
How much is the cap?
The total amount you can currently claim in benefits is:
- £500 per week for single parents and couples with children
- £350 per week for single people
The cap applies to the benefits you get as a household. This means that benefits received by you, your partner and dependent children who live with you, are all included.
Your housing benefit or universal credit will be reduced to ensure that you don't get more than the benefit cap limit.
Changes to the benefit cap
On July 8 2015 the government announced further reductions to the benefit cap. The total amount a household will be able to claim in benefits is:
- £442 a week in London
- £385 a week outside London
These changes will take effect from April 2016.
Are you affected by the benefit cap?
Families who receive working tax credits or who work enough hours to claim tax credits are exempt.
Use the Gov.uk tax credit calculator to find out if you're eligible.
If you have been employed continuously for 12 months, and you lose your job through no fault of your own, the benefit cap won't apply to you for the first 39 weeks of your claim.
You are also exempt if you or your family receive:
- disability living allowance or the personal independence payment
- attendance allowance
- support component of employment and support allowance
- industrial injuries benefits
The cap doesn't apply if you are of pension age, or you receive war widows' or war widowers' pension.
If you claim universal credit, you won't be affected if you have an in-work exemption.
Benefits included in the cap
These benefits count towards the cap:
- housing benefit (unless you live in supported housing)
- income support (IS)
- jobseeker's allowance (JSA)
- employment and support allowance (ESA) (unless you are in the support group)
- incapacity benefit
- child benefit and child tax credits
- guardian's allowance
- carer's allowance
- maternity benefits and widows benefits paid by the Department for Work and Pensions
- severe disablement allowance
- universal credit
Benefits not included in the cap
These benefits and payments don't count towards the cap:
- discretionary housing payments
- council tax support/reduction
- budgeting loan/advances
- one-off council crisis payments
- free school meals
- child maintenance payments
- winter fuel payments
- statutory maternity, paternity or adoption pay
- statutory sick pay
- housing benefit for supported accommodation. This usually includes domestic violence refuges and accommodation where tenants also get care or support
Action to take if you are affected
The benefit cap calculation will be done automatically. You do not need to provide any documents.
If you are unable to cover your housing costs in the short term, ask your local council about a discretionary housing payment.
Find out about action you can take to reduce your costs.
Contact your council's housing options or homelessness service for help and advice if you are threatened with homelessness.
Use Shelter's directory to find face-to-face advice services in your area.