Universal credit: Benefit cap

The benefit cap basically means that there is an upper limit on the amount of benefit that working age claimants who are out of work can receive.

What is the benefit cap?
How much is it?
What benefits count towards the cap?
How does it work with Universal Credit?
Northern Ireland
More detailed information

What is the benefit cap?

The cap was introduced on the total amount of benefit that working age claimants can receive, with the intention that households on out of work benefits should not receive more in benefit than the average weekly wage, after tax and national insurance.

The cap applies to all new UC claims. There is a Benefits Cap calculator available on the GOV.UK website

How much is it?

The current cap is:

Outside of Greater London Borough -

If you live in a Greater London Borough

What benefits count towards the cap?

The benefits currently taken into account in calculating the cap are:

The cap does not apply if anyone in the household is receiving WTC, Guardian's Allowance or certain disability benefits. See the GOV.UK website for a full list of these benefits.      

How does it work with Universal Credit?

The benefit cap is relevant to the final stage of calculating entitlement to UC. Firstly, the amount of excess must be calculated. This is the amount that the UC entitlement (plus any of the other benefits listed above) exceeds the benefit cap minus any amount included in the award for childcare costs. This ensures that childcare costs are protected from the cap. No reduction is applied if the childcare costs exceed the excess amount.

There are some other exceptions to the cap. The cap does not apply where:

Prior to 1 April 2017, the relevant threshold was a fixed amount of £430. For any assessment period beginning on or after 1 April 2017, instead of having a fixed level of net income that exempts a claimant from the cap it has been changed to be based on the monthly amount a person earns by working 16 hours a week at the national living wage – which is £569.22 a month currently ((£8.21 x 16 x 52) / 12).

The earnings threshold is set by reference to the living wage rate which applies to those aged 25 or over even if the claimant is under 25.

Northern Ireland

The cap was introduced in Northern Ireland from 31 May 2016.

In Northern Ireland, welfare supplementary payments can be made in certain situations where claimants in NI are affected by the benefit cap.

More information

For more information, see the Chapter E5 ADM guidance on GOV.UK.

Last reviewed/updated 23 April 2019