About welfare reforms
Universal Credit started for single job seekers from 29 February 2016. From June 2018, all new claims for the old benefits of Job Seekers Allowance, Employment and Support Allowance, Child and Working Tax Credits, Housing Benefit and Income Support will instead make a claim for Universal Credit.
It is important that you start to make changes now by making sure you have an email account and a bank account that your Universal Credit can be paid in to and from which you can pay your landlord your rent as in most cases, housing support will be paid to you.
There’s a limit on the total amount of benefit that most people aged 16 to 64 can get. This is called the benefit cap. Get more information from the GOV.UK benefit cap website.
The level of the cap in Cambridge is:
- £384.62 a week for single parents and couples (with or without children living with them)
- £384.62 a week for single parents whose children live with them
- £257.69 a week for single adults who don’t have children, or whose children don’t live with them
If your income of the following welfare benefits exceeds these amounts, the cap will be applied to your housing benefit entitlement.
The benefits included when seeing if your benefit income exceeds the cap are:
- Housing Benefit
- Child Benefit
- Child Tax Credit
- Jobseeker's Allowance
- Incapacity Benefit
- Income Support
- Employment and Support Allowance (except when in the support group)
- Maternity Allowance
- Severe Disablement Allowance
- Widowed Parent's Allowance & Bereavement Allowance
You will not be affected by the cap if:
- you are over pension age
- you are in work and entitled to Working Tax Credit (even if you don't receive a payment because your income is too high)
- you have recently been in work - see exemptions for current or recent work
- you, your partner or a child receives a disability benefit - see exemptions for disability
- you or your partner receive Carer's Allowance (or are entitled but do not receive a payment because of other benefits you receive)
- you, or your partner receive Guardian's Allowance
- you live in supported exempt accommodation
- you do not receive Housing Benefit (unless you claim Universal Credit)
Exemptions for disability
If you receive any of the following disability benefits you will be exempt from the cap:
- Disability Living Allowance
- Personal Independence Payment
- Constant Attendance Allowance
- Attendance Allowance
- Industrial Injuries Disablement Benefit
- Employment and Support Allowance with a support component
- Armed Forces Independence Payment
- Limited Capability for Work Related Activity element of Universal Credit
- War widows and widowers will also be exempt
Exemptions for current or recent work
The benefit cap is intended to increase work incentives so there is an exemption for households that are considered to be "in work." You will be considered in work and be exempt from the benefit cap if you are entitled to Working Tax Credit.
In addition, there is a “grace period” of 39 weeks for people who are over the benefits cap but had been in work for the previous 12 months. The grace period means that if your circumstances change because your job has ended there is a 9 month breathing space before your benefits are reduced. The grace period will include any periods when you are claiming statutory sick pay or statutory maternity/adoption pay.
How is the benefit cap applied?
If you receive more than the benefit cap allows then your Housing Benefit will reduce until you are brought back within the cap or until there is just 50p Housing Benefit left.
Help and advice
If your housing benefit is capped, you'll need to review your household income and expenditure to ensure the shortfall in your rent is made up, and budgeting is an important tool that can help you do this. Use our budget planner to take control of your finances. Our user friendly budget planner is free to use and should only take a matter of minutes to complete if you have all your financial information to hand.
If you're struggling to meet your rent payments, you should tell your landlord immediately. Keeping them informed and offering a practical solution may delay or prevent your landlord from trying to evict you - it demonstrates that you're making an effort to deal with the situation. They'll be more likely to take action if you ignore the problem.
We may be able to help you with a Discretionary Housing Payment if you are facing exceptional hardship. This is usually for a short time only and each case is considered on its own merit. Contact us for an application form or for more information, email firstname.lastname@example.org or call 01223 457762. However, in the long term you may need to consider moving to cheaper accommodation
However, before you get to this point it is important to seek advice from a welfare benefits advisor or a housing advisor.
We are working with landlords, Citizens Advice and partners specialising in returning to work to help households affected by the government cap, please contact us.
- Our Customer Service Centre on 01223 457762
- Our Housing Advice Team on 01223 457918
- Cambridge Citizen’s Advice Bureau on 03448 487 979
- National Debtline on 0808 808 4000 (Monday to Friday 9am to 9pm and Saturday 9.30am to 1pm)
- Step Change Debt Charity on 0800 138 1111 (Monday to Friday 8am to 8pm)
- Debt Advice Foundation on 0800 043 4050 (Monday to Friday 8am to 8pm and Saturday 9am to 5pm)
These agencies all provide free services and their websites have useful information about what to do if you get into debt. Their specialist debt advisers can make a full financial assessment and help you work out a plan to clear your debts and cover your living expenses. We can make an appointment for you to see a debt advisor.