The Benefit Cap

The Benefit Cap is a limit on the amount of benefit a household can receive. This was introduced in Northern Ireland on 31 May 2016.

Potentially affected households were contacted by letter in advance of the Benefit Cap's introduction.

What is the Benefit Cap?

The Benefit Cap is an upper limit to the amount of benefits households can receive. It makes sure that households on out-of-work benefits do not receive more than the average take home pay for working households.

For the Benefit Cap to apply, someone in the household must be in receipt of Housing Benefit.

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

What are the Benefit Cap limits?

The limits are set at:

  • £500 a week if your household is made up of a couple (with or without children) or you are a lone parent and you have children living with you, that you are responsible for ; or
  • £350 a week if you are a single person and have no children living with you.

How is the Benefit Cap calculated?

Some of the benefits that are received by you, your partner (if you have one) and any children who live with you and you are responsible for, are added together to determine if you are above the limit.

It does not include individuals who may live in your household, who you are not responsible for.

Which benefits count towards the Benefit Cap?

The following benefits all count towards your household income:

  • Bereavement Allowance
  • Child Benefit
  • Child Tax Credit
  • Employment and Support Allowance (except where the support component has been awarded)
  • Guardian’s Allowance
  • Housing Benefit
  • Incapacity Benefit
  • Income Support
  • Jobseeker's Allowance
  • Maternity Allowance
  • Severe Disablement Allowance
  • Widowed Parent's Allowance
  • Widowed Mother's Allowance
  • Widow's Pension
  • Widow's Pension (age-related)

What households aren't affected by the Benefit Cap?

The Benefit Cap does not apply to households living in Supported Exempt Accommodation.

It does not apply if you, or your partner, qualify for Working Tax Credit or if you, your partner or any children you are responsible for, and who live with you, are in receipt of one of the following benefits:

  • Attendance Allowance
  • Carer's Allowance
  • Disability Living Allowance (and its replacement Personal Independence Payment)
  • Employment and Support Allowance (where the Support Component has been awarded)
  • Industrial Injuries Benefit
  • Armed Forces Compensation Scheme (Guaranteed Income Payments)
  • Armed Forces Independence Payment
  • War Pensions (this includes the War Widow’s/Widower’s pension and war disablement pension)

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 administered?

For those affected by the Benefit Cap, it is currently administered through a reduction in Housing Benefit.  If your household is, or becomes affected by the Benefit Cap, you will receive a Housing Benefit award notification from the Northern Ireland Housing Executive, advising that your Housing Benefit amount will reduce due to the Benefit Cap.  

This letter will also detail the benefits and itemised amounts used to calculate the Benefit Cap.

When Universal Credit is introduced, the Benefit Cap might apply to your combined income from Universal Credit along with other benefits such as Child Benefit.

What help is available for affected households?

Finding work could mean that the Benefit Cap would not 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/claiming by contacting your nearest Jobs & Benefits office / Social Security Office/Job Centre where an Adviser will help you in your search for work.

An additional supplementary payment, payable for up to four years, may be available for households, with children, identified as being affected by the Benefit Cap from 31 May 2016. This does not affect your tax credits entitlement, and you won't have to pay any tax on it.

If you are affected by the Benefit Cap, you do not need to apply to receive a supplementary payment. The Department for Communities will identify who is eligible and the payments will cover any loss of Housing Benefit. The supplementary payments are made every four weeks in arrears.

The Benefit Cap supplementary payments are paid to the person that receives the Housing Benefit. Any landlords or letting agents must be on the Landlord Register to receive a supplementary payment where applicable. If they are not, the payments are made to the benefit claimant.

Households affected by the Benefit Cap after 31 May 2016, may also be entitled to a supplementary payment, provided they have been in receipt of one of the benefits included in the Benefit Cap calculation since 31 May 2016.

Anyone affected by the Benefit Cap who is not eligible for a supplementary payment, may be eligible to apply for a Discretionary Housing Payment to make up for a reduction in their Housing Benefit.

Further information

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 can be found at:

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