Dealing with the benefit cap

The benefit cap limits the amount of benefit that many working age people can claim. It can make it difficult for you to pay rent or meet other living costs.

Who is affected by the benefit cap

The benefit cap applies if you:

  • are working age
  • don't qualify for an exemption
  • have a total income from benefits which would be above the cap

Find out which benefits are included in the cap on GOV.UK

You're exempt if you - and your partner if you live with them - are pension age. 

If one of you is pension age and the other is working age you will only be exempt if you get housing benefit. 

Most people affected by the benefit cap are families with children. Some single people and couples without children are also affected, usually in areas with high private rents.

Benefit cap amounts

The cap cuts your universal credit or housing benefit until your overall benefit entitlement is within the cap.

The cap is set at different levels depending on if you live in a London borough or not.

If you're affected by the cap, the maximum amount of benefit you can get  is:

 Monthly amountWeekly amount
Families with children and couples - in London £1916.67 £442.31
Families with children and couples - outside London £1666.67 £384.62
Single people - in London £1284.17 £296.35
Single people - outside London £1116.67 £257.69

When you're exempt from the benefit cap

The benefit cap won't apply in the following situations.

You earn more than £605 a month

The cap won't apply if you get universal credit and earn at least £604.59 a month.

Your earnings can be from an employer or through self employment.

If you claim as a couple, it's your combined earnings that count.

You're in a grace period

You may qualify for a 9 month grace period before your universal credit is reduced if you stop work or your monthly earnings fall below £604.59.

Your monthly earnings must have been at least the following over the last year:  

  • £604.59 for the months after 1 April 2020
  • £569.23 for the months before 1 April 2020

Combined earnings count if you claim as a couple.

You qualify for working tax credit

The cap won't apply if you qualify for working tax credit.

This usually means you must work at least:

  • 16 hours a week if you're a single parent or disabled person
  • 24 hours a week for a couple with children - 1 of you must work at least 16 hours
  • 30 hours a week if you're aged 25-59 and don't have dependent children

You may still be entitled to working tax credit if you can't work your normal hours at the moment due to coronavirus.

You claim certain disability or carer benefits

The cap won't apply if you, your partner or any children who live with you get any of the following benefits:

  • attendance allowance
  • disability living allowance (DLA)
  • personal independence payment (PIP)
  • carer's allowance or guardian's allowance
  • employment and support allowance (ESA) - support component
  • universal credit - carer element or limited capability for work-related activity element

Make sure you're claiming everything you're entitled to:

Use the entitledto benefits calculator

Help if you can't pay the rent

You can apply for a discretionary housing payment (DHP) if you get the universal credit housing element or housing benefit.

This is an extra payment from your council that could help if you're struggling to pay rent because of the benefit cap.

You can ask the council for help if, for example:

  • you get a section 21 notice
  • your landlord threatens to evict you
  • your home is unaffordable because of the benefit cap

Coronavirus update: evictions are on hold

All court action for eviction has been put on hold until at least 20 September.

Your landlord can't get a court order to evict you until after that date.

Still need advice?

For advice on rent arrears, eviction or homelessness:

Contact a Shelter adviser

For benefits advice if you're a single parent:

Contact the Gingerbread Single Parent Helpline on 0808 802 0925

Last updated 19 June 2020 | © Shelter

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