The Benefit Cap – what to do if you are affected

From November 7th new revised rules are being introduced in respect of the benefit cap which is a limit on the total amount of certain benefits you can get if you are of working age. The benefit cap will only affect you if you are getting Housing Benefit or Universal Credit. If the cap affects you, your Housing Benefit or Universal Credit is reduced to the level of the cap that applies to your circumstances.

It is important to note that the benefit cap doesn’t apply to everyone – some people are exempt in particular, those who are getting working tax credit, carers allowance or a disability benefit such as Disability Living Allowance, Personal Independence payment or Attendance allowance. There are other exemptions:

• If you are claiming benefits because you have lost your job, you will also not be subject to the cap if you had been working for 50 weeks out of the last 52 before you stopped work

If you are subject to the benefit cap, the Dept of Work & Pensions will write to you to inform you that it applies to you and tell you how the cap will affect you. If this happens, there are a number of things you can do to ease or deal with the situation.

• You or your partner may be able to get work or increase your hours so you could claim Working Tax Credit – this would exempt you from the cap

• You could see if you could claim a discretionary Housing payment to deal with the shortfall in Housing benefit

• Your local Citizens Advice service may be able to help you with budgeting, saving money on your fuel or water bills and see if there is any additional income you could claim.

• Some charities may also be able to help you

• Lastly it may even be possible to move to cheaper accommodation or negotiate a rent reduction from your landlord

For further information and advice, contact your local Citizens Advice Bureau or see