The Benefit Cap

 

What is the Benefit Cap? 

The Benefit Cap limits the total amount of benefit that most people of working age (currently aged 16 to 64) can receive each week. 

Will the Cap apply to everyone?

You are not affected by the Cap if you or your partner work and either of the following apply;

  • you or your partner are eligible for Working Tax Credit
  • you or your partner get Universal Credit, and your earnings are more than £430 a month after tax and National Insurance

The Cap will also not apply where you or your partner receives one of these benefits:

  • Universal Credit but only where;
    • the award includes the carer’s element* or
    • the award includes a Limited Capacity for Work Related Activity Element 
  • War Widows or Widowers Pension

  • Disability Living Allowance, including where it is paid for a dependent child
  • Personal Independence Payment
  • Attendance Allowance
  • Constant Attendance Allowance
  • The Support Component of Employment and Support Allowance
  • Industrial Injuries Benefit
  • Carer’s Allowance* 
  • Guardian’s Allowance* 

* From 7 November 2016 

What is changing?

Although the Benefit Cap was first introduced in July 2013, from 7 November 2016 the limit on the total benefit people can receive changed. This means more people are affected and the people who were already affected may have their benefit reduced.

How much is the Cap?

In Milton Keynes it changed on 7 November 2016 to; 

  • £384.62 a week for lone parents and couples with or without children.
  • £257.69 a week for single people.

Before this date the Cap limit was;

  • £500 a week for lone parents and couples with or without children
  • £350 a week for single people.

Who is affected?

If you are receiving one of the benefits included in the Cap (see list) you could be affected by the Cap. The Department for Work and Pension (DWP) has written to all claimants who will be affected.

Single pensioners and couples where both members of the couple are of pension credit age are not affected. Couples where one of the couple is under pension credit age may be affected. 

Which benefits are included in the Cap?

The combined income received from any of the benefits listed below will be taken into account. If the total is more than the limit the Cap will be applied.

  • Housing Benefit 
  • Child Benefit
  • Child Tax Credit 
  • Jobseeker’s Allowance
  • Income Support
  • Employment and Support Allowance (unless it’s paid with the support component).
  • Universal Credit
  • Incapacity Benefit 
  • Severe Disablement Allowance 
  • Maternity Allowance
  • Bereavement Allowance
  • Widows Pension
  • Widowed Parents Allowance

How will the Cap be applied?

The Cap is applied by reducing Housing Benefit or Universal Credit. No other benefit is reduced.

How will I know if my benefit will be capped?

You can work it out yourself by adding up any benefits you receive that are included in the Cap and comparing them to the limits.

You can use this to get an estimate of how much your benefit could be capped by. 

To answer the questions in the calculator you will need to know the weekly amount for each benefit you, your partner or any dependent children receive.

The Department for Work and Pensions has also said that they will write to anyone who will have their benefit capped.

What happens if I have a change of circumstances?

Consider whether your circumstances are likely to change in the foreseeable future. For example, do you have a child who will soon be treated as financially independent of you? When this happens, your benefits may go down, which may bring you under the limit of the Cap or mean that you are less affected by the Cap.

On the other hand if, for example, you're expecting a baby, your benefits may go up. This could push you over the limit of the Cap.

What can I do to avoid being capped?

There may be things you can do to avoid the Benefit Cap or to deal with it if you’re affected. For example:

You should consider the following options:

  • Can you or your partner get work, or increase your hours of work, so that you can claim Working Tax Credit or if you receive Universal Credit to increase the amount you earn? This would mean the Cap would not apply to you. 
  • Can anyone in your household get one of the benefits that mean that the Cap won't apply to you, or that some of your benefits won't be counted? 
  • Can you move to cheaper accommodation or negotiate a rent reduction with your landlord?

What can I do if I am affected by the Cap?

There are some options you may want to consider if and when your Housing Benefit is actually capped: 

  • If you have a disabled child who does not qualify for Disability Living Allowance (DLA) or a child whose health or development is likely to be damaged because of the reduction in your benefit, contact Milton Keynes Council Children's Services Department. They may be able to help with a cash payment or other assistance. The Children and Families contact number is 01908 253169. 
  • Find out if your family or friends can help make up the reduction in your benefit. These payments won't affect your benefits, nor will maintenance paid for children, by an absent parent. 


Where can I get support finding a job?

If you need support in looking for work or need help in building your confidence, improving your computer skills, English, Maths, CV writing, interview techniques etc, then contact the Neighbourhood Employment Programme to find out where your nearest job club is and to access a range of free workshops.

They can be contacted by emailing nep@milton-keynes.gov.uk or telephone 01908 252323

Support is also provided by the Department of Work and Pensions (DWP) Jobcentre Plus. 

The DWP will help anyone affected by the Cap to find work or move closer to employment.

They can arrange for someone to contact you, to book an appointment with a Personal Adviser to discuss what support you can receive to find employment. The kind of support available will depend upon your personal circumstances. 

The DWP helpline number is 0345 605 7064 or textphone 0345 6057066 for people with hearing or speech impairments.  If you are receiving Universal Credit the number is 0345 600 0723 or textphone 0345 6000743.

Other information is available at gov.uk where you can get help looking for work and information on how to update your skills, write a CV, apply for jobs and prepare for an interview.

You can also find out more about Working Tax Credit on the gov.uk website including how many hours you need to work to qualify for Working Tax Credit.

Can I appeal against my benefit being capped?

You cannot appeal against the decision to apply the Benefit Cap to your benefits. As long as the Council has applied the right deduction based on information from the DWP, it will not be able to change the amount of the reduction.

Will the Council re-house me if I can’t pay my rent?

We will look at your income and essential spending before we make a decision. We would expect you to make paying rent a priority. If you don’t then we may find that you have made yourself homeless, in which case that could limit the help we can give you.

However, if you are genuinely unable to pay, we will help you to find more affordable housing that meets your needs. This could be in the private sector or in a council or housing association property. 

The important thing is to contact us as soon as you think there may be a problem. If you run up a big debt without seeking help early on, that could also limit the help we can give you.

More information can be found on our Housing Options webpage.

Housing advice and information can be accessed on line via our Housing Options Self Help Tool

Alternatively the Homeless Enquiries number is 01908 253481 or e mail homeless.enquiries@milton-keynes.gov.uk 

Where can I find more information?

The Department for Work and Pensions helpline 0345 6057064 (Text-phone: 0345 6088551) is available for individuals with specific benefit Cap queries but will not be able to answer general queries.

The line is open Monday to Friday 8am - 6pm. 

The Council’s Benefit Service will be able to explain how your Housing Benefit will be affected by the Cap BUT will not be able to change the amount of the Cap if it has been applied correctly.

Where can I get other support if I am affected by the Cap?

 

From Your Landlord

If you have problems coping with your rent payments and other debts, the sooner you talk to your landlord, the sooner they can help. 

From The Council 

If you are a Council Tenant contact the Milton Keynes Housing Service as soon as you can see a problem coming; don't wait until it arrives. 
The contact details are;
Email: mkhousingservices@milton-keynes.gov.uk  
Tel: 01908 252937 

Housing Service
Civic Offices
1 Saxon Gate East 
Central Milton Keynes 
MK9 3EJ.

Is there any other help?

In exceptional circumstances the Council may be able to help you for a limited period by awarding a Discretionary Housing Payment (DHP) or make a single payment to help you move to accommodation that is more affordable. 

More information and an application form is available on our DHP webpage.

Each case will be looked at on its own merits. In most cases we take into account all income and all reasonable expenditure to establish if you are able to make up the shortfall between your Housing Benefit and your rent yourself. 

We would also expect to see evidence that you are taking action to resolve the shortfall in your finances on a long term basis, for example, by finding work or reducing your outgoings to ensure that you can manage in the long term.  

There is a limited sum available to spend on these payments so only in cases of severe hardship will payments be made. 

The contact details are;

Email: DHP@milton-keynes.gov.uk
Tel: 01908 253040

Discretionary Payments 
Civic Offices 
1 Saxon Gate East
Central Milton Keynes
MK9 3EJ


You may be able to get support and advice from Adult Social Care. 

If you would like to talk to someone about social care support for yourself or for anyone else, please contact a Customer Liaison Officer in the Adult Social Care Access Team (ASCAT)

Address: Milton Keynes Council 
Civic Offices
1 Saxon Gate East
 Central Milton Keynes
MK9 3EJ

Tel: 01908 253772
Fax: 01908 253185
Textphone: 07957 150983 (for people who are hard of hearing or have communication difficulties only)
Email: : ascat@milton-keynes.gov.uk.

There are also a number of other organisations that will be able to give you confidential and impartial advice:

Shelter

Shelter offers advice about any housing problems (Not just homelessness). 

Tel: 0808 800 4444 (calls are free from UK landlines and main mobile networks).

Citizens Advice Bureaux (CAB)

The CAB offers free, confidential advice face-to-face or by phone. 

Tel: 01908 604475, 

Email: advice@mkcab.org.uk

Textphone: 18001 followed by Citizens Advice consumer helpline number 08454 04 05 06.

National Debtline

National Debtline is a free, confidential service offering independent advice about dealing with debt. You can get information online or by calling the helpline.

Tel: 0808 808 4000

Money Advice Service

The Money Advice Service gives free, unbiased, independent help on managing money, how to prioritise and reduce your debts and where to get free financial advice.

Tel: 0800 138 7777 

Last Updated: 17 October 2018