The benefit cap

From 7 November 2016, the government has reduced the amount of benefit you can receive if you are of working age.

If you live in Slough your benefit will now be reduced to:

  • £20,000 per annum, for couples and parents which is £384.62 per week
  • £13,400 for single people with no children which is £257.69 per week.

The new cap will be implemented in Slough in two phases:

  • the first phase is from 7 November for anyone who is currently capped (about 80 families)
  • the second phase will be from week 19 December for families who have not been previously capped.

What is it?

The benefit cap applies to people aged 16 to 64, also known as 'working age'.

Any benefits you receive that take you above the cap will be deducted from your housing benefit, leaving you to make up any shortfall in your rent from the other benefits you receive.

Larger families are most likely to be affected by the overall cap on benefits, particularly those living in areas with high rents, or needing larger homes because of the number of children.

If you are on Housing Benefit this will be reduced, if the cap is greater than your housing benefit you will retain 50p per week which will enable you to claim a Discretionary Housing Payment, if you are claiming Universal Credit then the rent element in Universal Credit will be reduced.

What's included in the Benefit Cap?

When added together the benefit cap will limit the total income your household can get from the following benefits:

  • Bereavement Allowance
  • Carer's Allowance
  • Child Benefit
  • Child Tax Credit
  • Employment and Support Allowance (except where it is paid with the support component)
  • Guardian's Allowance
  • Housing Benefit
  • Incapacity Benefit
  • Income Support
  • Jobseeker's Allowance
  • Maternity Allowance
  • Severe Disablement Allowance
  • Widowed Parent's Allowance
  • Widowed Mothers Allowance
  • Widows Pension
  • Widows Pension Age-Related.

A household means you and your partner, if you have one, and any children you are responsible for and who live with you.

Your income from benefits will be taken into account before any deductions, for example, for recovery of overpayments or payments for fuel arrears.

Any income from non-dependents living with you, such as adult children, won't count.

Benefits which won't be counted for the cap

There are some benefits which won't be counted when working out whether your benefit income is over the cap:

  • Council Tax Support
  • Discretionary Housing Payments
  • Pension Credit
  • State Retirement Pension
  • Statutory Adoption Pay, Statutory Maternity Pay and Statutory Paternity Pay (paid by employers)
  • Statutory Sick Pay (paid by employers)
  • one-off payments, for example, Social Fund loans
  • non-cash benefits, for example, free school meals.

Who won't be affected by the cap?

All pensioners are exempt from the cap.

The benefit cap will not affect a household if a member qualifies for Working Tax Credit (WTC), increasing the incentive to find work, or if you or a member of your household gets any of the following benefits:

  • Disability Living Allowance
  • Employment Support Allowance (Support group)
  • Personal Independence Payment
  • Attendance Allowance
  • Carer’s Allowance
  • Guardian’s Allowance (NB: not Special Guardianship Allowance)
  • Industrial Injuries Benefit
  • War Disablement Pension
  • Armed Forces Independence Payment
  • Armed Forces Compensation Scheme Payments
  • War Widow’s/Widower’s Pensions.

Any other benefits or income that is not listed above will not be taken into account when applying the cap.

Additionally, the cap will not be applied for 39 weeks to those who have been in work continuously for the previous 12 months and who lose their job through no fault of their own. If you fall into this category you will need to notify the DWP of your recent work history if you are capped.

The benefit cap will also not apply to people who receive Disability Living Allowance (and its replacement Personal Independence Payment), Attendance Allowance, Industrial Injuries Benefits, the support component of Employment and Support Allowance, recognising the extra costs they face.

What's happening now?

If the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) thinks you are at risk of being capped, based on your current circumstances, they will have written to you to explain this, you will also have received at least one letter from us.
Letters will set out the intensive help that will be provided to get people into work as well as exemptions to the cap, online help and an information helpline.

The DWP has set up a Helpline to help answer questions about the cap:

  • 0845 605 7064* (8am to 6pm) or
  • textphone 0845 608 8551 for people with hearing or speech impairments.

*Calls to 0845 numbers from BT landlines are charged at 5p a minute. Calls from other networks and mobiles vary and may be significantly more.

The advice line may refer you to your local Jobcentre Plus for help and support with finding work, or Slough Borough Council for other support.

Slough Jobcentre

Slough Jobcentre will be offering additional employment assistance to those claimants who are not already fully supported in looking for work. Their contact details are as follows:

Jobcentre Plus
2a Yew Tree Road
Slough, Berkshire
SL1 2AQ
Telephone: 0345 604 3719
Website: Jobcentre Plus

East Berkshire Community Learning and Skills Service

East Berkshire Community and Learning and Skills Service offers a number of free courses in various subjects including in English language, maths, computer skills and personal development.

You can get free information and advice from a qualified employment and learning adviser who can help you make decisions about learning and work. Just call for an appointment or attend a ‘jobclub’.

You can get more information about the community learning and skills service from this website or by calling 01753 476611 between 9am and 5pm, Monday to Friday.

What can you do if you're affected by the cap?

Check how much benefit you are entitled to now to find out how much Housing Benefit you are likely to lose when the cap is applied. This may affect which options you need to consider.

You can use the online benefit cap calculator to estimate how much Housing Benefit you will lose if your total benefit income is more than the cap.

You may need to consider one of the following options:

  • can you or your partner get work, or increase your hours of work, so you can claim Working Tax Credit? This would mean the cap would not apply to you
  • to claim working tax credit you must be working 16 hours for a single parent, 24 hours for a couple, or 30 hours for a single person over 25 - please note, those under 25, who don’t have children and are not disabled cannot claim WTC
  • can anybody 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?
  • should you not be able to do one of the above you must pay the rental shortfall to your Landlord or your home may be at risk.

What else can you do?

If your benefit is capped you can apply for a Discretionary Housing Payment from the Housing Benefit Section. There is additional money available to help ease the transition for people who are affected by the cap. If you are awarded a payment, this may help in the short term to pay towards your rent, you will be required to undertake agreed actions to move towards work or exemption.

It is important that you understand that you need to take action and choose one of the options mentioned above. If you do not take action, the most likely outcome is that you will build up rent arrears and face eviction.

It is important that you make use of the support offered by the various services outlined above.