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Mind the (benefits) cap

If you receive benefits, you may be affected by changes that come into force in November, which limit the amount you can receive.

A cap was introduced nationally by the government in July 2013 to limit the maximum amount that working age households can receive in benefits. This is called the benefit cap.

The amounts the cap is set at – and also the list of benefits that are affected by the cap – will be changing this autumn. Help and advice is available. If you have not sought advice yet, there are still things you can do.

Will I be affected?

Those most likely to be affected are being written to by the government’s Department of Work and Pensions (DWP).

  1. You are not affected by the cap if you or your partner work, and either of the following apply:
  2. You or your partner are eligible for Working Tax Credit
  3. You or your partner get Universal Credit, and your household income is more than £430 a month after tax and National Insurance.

To read more on the benefit cap rules, proposed changes and cap amounts, visit www.gov.uk/benefit-cap

I am affected. What are my options?

If your housing benefit is reduced by a small amount per week you may be able to:

  1. Budget to find extra income to pay the shortfall
  2. Negotiate a rent reduction with your landlord if you are a private tenant or move to cheaper accommodation. You may need to look in different areas where the Local Housing Allowance (LHA) rates are lower. This will reduce your housing benefit and hence reduce the impact of the benefit cap. To check the LHA rates you can search areas by postcode at www.gov.uk/guidance/local-housing-allowance

If the benefit cap reduces your housing benefit by a large amount per week you can consider the following options:

  1. Call the DWP benefits cap helpline 0345 605 7064
  2. Work 16 hours per week or more if you are single (including lone parents); or work 24 hours or more per week if you are a couple. By doing so you could qualify for Working Tax Credit and receiving this can exempt you from the benefit cap. Find out how local work clubs can help you get into employment – and also about the council’s WEST service.
More information on the cap

More information can be obtained from www.gov.uk or by phoning the tax credits helpline on 0345 300 3900.

Other help and support

Ealing Council’s local welfare assistance team can help you by advising you on jobs, your bills and applying for one-off crisis payments.

The team can help with getting you into work through one of four local work clubs; and the team can also give you guidance on managing money and how to budget, and how to prioritise debts.

You can also find out if you might qualify to apply for one of the following short-term payments:

  1. Crisis Payment and Community Care grant – a one-off payment if you are unable to pay your basic living expenses if you are getting Income Support, Employment Support Allowance (income related), Job Seekers Allowance (income based) or Pension Credit
  2. Discretionary Housing Payments (DHP)/Discretionarily Council Tax Discount (DCTD) – these can be used to help pay your rent and council tax. Payment is made from a limited fund that is not for long term use. Payments are made at the council’s discretion and each case is considered on its merits. Making an application does not guarantee that you will receive a payment. There are conditions that you will have to meet to get an award. You can find DHP application forms on the council’s website www.ealing.gov.uk
Information on support

Contact the local welfare assistance team on localwelfareassisstance@ealing.gov.uk or, for more information about housing benefit and council tax support, go to www.ealing.gov.uk/housing

‘Act as soon as possible’

Councillor Yvonne Johnson, cabinet member for finance and performance, said: “A number of people in the borough will be affected by these national changes. It is critical that they act as soon as possible and do not ignore it. The council can help in a variety of ways and advice is available, so I hope everyone affected contacts our team or gives the DWP benefits cap helpline a call.”

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