The Welfare Reform Bill, currently being considered by the Northern Ireland Assembly, includes a proposal to introduce a benefit cap. The benefit cap is a maximum limit on the amount of benefit a household can receive. The benefit cap is expected to be introduced in Northern Ireland in spring 2014.
What is the benefit cap?
The cap is an upper limit to the amount of benefits households can receive. The cap will ensure that households on out of work benefits will no longer receive more than the average take home pay for working households.
A household means you, your partner, if you have one and any children you are responsible for and who live with you.
Why is the benefit cap being introduced?
The benefit cap is being introduced to promote fairness between those in work and those receiving benefits.
How much is the benefit cap
The benefit cap is expected to be set at:
a maximum of £350 a week if you are single and either of the following apply:
- you have no children
- the children you have responsibility for don't live with you
a maximum of £500 a week if either of the following apply:
- you are a couple with or without dependent children
- you are a lone parent with dependent children living with you
Which benefits count towards the cap
These benefits all count towards your household income:
- 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)
Households that aren't affected by the cap
The cap won't apply to you, if you, your partner or any children you are responsible for qualify for Working Tax Credit or have been awarded any of the following benefits:
- Disability Living Allowance
- Industrial Injuries Benefit
- Personal Independence Payment
- War Widow's or War Widower's Pension
- Attendance Allowance
- Employment and Support Allowance (if paid with the support component)
- Armed Forces Compensation Scheme (Guaranteed Income Payments)
- Armed Forces Independence Payment
- War Pensions
One off payments such as Budgeting and Crisis loans, Bereavement payments, Cold Weather and Winter Fuel payments are excluded from the calculation. This list is not exhaustive.
How will the benefit cap be introduced?
Initially the benefit cap will be delivered through a reduction in your Housing Benefit.
When Universal Credit is introduced, the cap might apply to your combined income from Universal Credit along with other benefits such as Child Benefit and Carer's Allowance.
What help will be available?
Finding work could mean that the cap wouldn't apply to you because qualifying for Working Tax Credit will mean that you are not affected by these new rules.
You can receive help and assistance in finding work from your local Jobs and Benefits office/Jobcentre. Contact your nearest Jobs and Benefits office /Jobcentre where an advisor will help you in your search for work.
You may be entitled to additional financial help by way of a Discretionary Housing Payment if the amount of Housing Benefit you receive is reduced and you have problems in paying the shortfall.
Further information on finding work/claiming Working Tax Credit can be found at
Further information on Housing Benefit and claiming Discretionary Housing Payment can be found at:
Further information on benefit cap element of Welfare Reform Bill can be found at: