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Cap on benefits

Housing Benefit to stop if you are abroad for more than four weeks

If you are going abroad for more than four weeks, you may not be able to claim housing benefit because of new national rules that are now in force.

Previously, anyone claiming housing benefit could do so until they spent a ‘temporary absence’ of 13 weeks away from home. However, this has been shortened for absences outside of the UK to just four weeks as part of new law.

If you are going away for more than four weeks, please make sure that you tell Wycombe District Council beforehand, so that you avoid claiming benefits you are not entitled to and stop yourself committing benefit fraud.

There are certain circumstances where the four weeks can be extended, but this decision will be made on a case by case basis. A full list of circumstances can be found here.

The important thing to do is to talk about your situation before you go away, so that you are clear on the impact it will have on your benefits.

To notify Wycombe District Council about a four-week or longer absence from your home, please visit www.wycombe.gov.uk or call 01494 412227. Please note that is your responsibility to notify the Council of any absence.

It is also your own responsibility to pay your own rent, even if you have help from Housing Benefit to cover the cost. If your benefits stop when you travel abroad, your rent payments continue.

Cap on benefits

If you receive benefits, there is a limit on the total amount of benefit that most people aged 16 to 64 can get. This is called the benefit cap. Find out how the benefit cap could affect you and what action you can take if it does, by reading the sections below:

What is the cap on benefits?

If the total of your benefit comes to more than the maximum amount allowed, your housing benefit payments will be reduced.

The total amount of benefits that can be received by any individual or family before autumn 2016 is limited to a maximum amount of:

  • £500 per week for single parents (£26,000)
  • £500 per week for couples with children (£26,000)
  • £350 per week for single people or those whose children do not live with them (£18,200)

From autumn 2016, the government will be lowering the amount of maximum benefit that you can receive - if you receive more than the following amounts of benefit your housing benefit will be reduced and you will be expected to pay the shortfall.

  • For couples and lone parents you will be limited to claiming £385.00 per week or £1668.00 per month benefit (including housing benefit)
  • For single people you will be limited to claiming £258.00 per week or £1117.00 per month benefit (including housing benefit)

You will probably be affected by the benefit cap if you are out of work and claiming benefits such as income support, jobseeker's allowance, or employment and support allowance. Housing benefit counts towards the maximum amount of benefit that can be paid.

The cap won't apply to you if you work enough hours to be eligible for working tax credit. A few other groups of people also won't be affected.

In the July Budget statement of 2015, the Chancellor said the benefit cap would be decreased further to £20,000 for those living outside London who are out of work. This will come into effect from Autumn 2016.

Which benefits are included in the cap?

The cap applies to the total amount people in your household (you, your partner and any children living with you) get from the following benefits:

Which benefits are not included in the cap?

You’re not affected by the cap if anyone in your household qualifies for Working Tax Credit or gets any of the following benefits:

When does the benefit cap not apply?

The benefit cap only applies to people of working age, which means you won't be affected if either you or your partner are over the state pension credit age.

If you’re seeing a Jobcentre Plus advisor, Work Programme or Work Choice provider, they’ll continue to help you look for work and get skills you may need for a job.

There will be a 39 week 'grace period' for anyone who has been in work continuously for 12 months and loses their job through no fault of their own. During that period, the cap won't apply.

You’re not affected by the benefit cap if anyone in your household qualifies for working tax credit or gets any of the benefits listed as not included in the cap.

You might still be affected by the cap if you have any grown-up children or non-dependants who live with you and they qualify for one of the benefits below. This is because they won’t normally count as part of your household.

What can I do if I am affected by the benefit cap?

Paying your rent should always be your top priority. If your income is reduced because of the benefit cap and you don't have enough money to pay all your rent, you might fall into rent arrears and possibly face eviction.

It's important to work out how much money you’ll have left to live on after you’ve paid your rent. You’ll be expected to make up any shortfall in your housing benefit from your other income. Budgeting will become even more important if your benefits are reduced.

You might decide that it would be better for you to move to a cheaper or smaller home – have a look at our page on mutual exchanges for more information .

What about housing benefit for those over working age?

Pension credit will remain for those over the qualifying age. In the future, housing benefit is likely to be rolled into pension credit, although the exact details of how this will work have not been announced. Tenants over working age retain the right to choose to have their housing benefit paid direct to their landlord. The benefit cap will also not apply to those claiming pension credits.

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