The benefit cap

5 mins read


This advice applies across the UK.

The benefit cap – or household benefit cap – limits the total amount of benefits that an out-of-work family can receive.

In this article

What is the benefit cap?

The benefit cap – or household benefit cap – limits the total amount of benefits that an out-of-work family can receive. 

Some families are exempt from the benefit cap, and this includes anyone who has a dependent child getting Disability Living Allowance (DLA), Personal Independence Payment (PIP), Child Disability Payment or Adult Disability Payment.

Unless you are exempt from the benefit cap, your combined income from certain benefits is capped at a set amount. If you get more than this amount, the extra you receive is deducted from either your housing benefit or any Universal Credit payments you get.

How much is the benefit cap?

At the moment, the cap is:

In London:

Outside London:

For example, Anita and her partner live outside London and get £115 a week in Jobseeker’s Allowance, £171 a week in child tax credit, £140 per week in housing benefit and £47.70 in child benefit. This is a total of £473.70. Because their income will be £89.08 above the £384.62 cap, their housing benefit payments will be cut by £89.08 per week.

When are families with disabled children exempt?

You are exempt from the cap if you have a dependent child who gets either DLA, PIP, Child Disability Payment or Adult Disability Payment.

If you have a disabled child but have not claimed one of these disability benefits for them yet, get advice about making a claim. It does not matter what rate of disability benefit your child gets; any award at all will mean that the benefit cap does not apply to you.

Am I exempt if my disabled child is no longer my dependent?

You are only exempt if you have a “dependent” child on a qualifying disability benefit. If a disabled child aged 16 or above either leaves education, turns 20 or claims certain benefits such as Universal Credit, they stop counting as a dependent. This means that their parent may then lose their exemption from the benefit cap.

However, anyone who is getting Carer’s Allowance is exempt from the cap. This will help protect some parents whose disabled child is no longer a dependent. So long as that parent gets Carer’s Allowance, they should remain exempt from the cap. You will also be exempt as a carer if you have an underlying entitlement to Carer’s Allowance. That means you have claimed Carer’s Allowance and qualify for it, but another benefit you receive blocks payments.

In addition, those who get Universal Credit with a carer element are also exempt. Contact our freephone helpline if you are a parent of a disabled young person, you are receiving one of these carers benefits, and the benefit cap currently affects you.

Is anyone else exempt?

You are exempt from the cap if you or your partner is working sufficient hours to be eligible for Working Tax Credit. This is either 16 or 24 hours a week depending on your circumstances.

If you work and get Universal Credit, you are exempt if your earnings are at least £617 in that monthly assessment period. Other groups are also exempt, such as families where a parent gets certain disability benefits.

Special rules in Northern Ireland mean housing benefit claimants get additional “welfare supplementary payments” to make up any shortfall in their housing benefit because of the benefit cap.

What happens if I lose my job or have to give up work? 

If you were working for at least 50 out of the 52 weeks immediately before you started claiming benefits and you either lose your job or give up work through illness, you have a nine month “grace period” before the cap applies to your benefit income.

You must not have been eligible for Employment and Support Allowance, Jobseeker’s Allowance or Income Support during the time you were working.

If you get Universal Credit, and your earnings (including any partner’s earnings) drop to below £617, a nine month grace period applies so long as you were earning above that amount in each of the preceding 12 months.

If you stopped work before you claimed Universal Credit, a nine month ‘grace period’ applies so long as your earnings had been above £617 per month in each of the preceding 12 months.   

What should I do if the benefit cap affects me?

Get advice to see if you should be exempt from the benefit cap or could become exempt by changing your situation. For instance, if you have a disabled child but have not yet claimed DLA for them, getting a DLA award will result in you becoming exempt from the cap altogether.

If you cannot become exempt and are a housing benefit claimant, get advice about applying to your local authority for discretionary housing payments.