On the Noticeboard

Benefit Cap Victory for Carers

 

 

 

On 25 January 2016 the Government announced that it would exempt all carers ‘receiving carer’s allowance’ from the benefit cap. They made the announcement partly in response to a court case, and partly because they are passing a new law about the benefit cap.

So far all that is known is that they “will be exempting all recipients of carer’s allowance from the benefit cap, whether they are single or part of a couple.” So it seems clear that if you are paid Carer’s Allowance you will be exempt from the benefit cap.

However if you have an ‘underlying entitlement’ because you receive another non-means tested benefit (such as Employment and Support Allowance), it’s not yet clear whether the Government intends to exempt you from the benefit cap.  Please keep reading below for more details.

Benefits Cap Carers Victory headline Benefits Cap Carers Victory

What is the benefit cap?

The benefit cap limits the total amount of benefit that can be paid to a non-working household.  The benefit cap levels are set at:

  • £500 per week for couples
  • £500 per week for families or lone parents with children (this amount is the same regardless of how many children you have
  • £350 if you are single without children

The cap will not apply to claimants who have reached the qualifying age for Pension Credit, war widows, and households that get certain disability benefits or Working Tax Credits. A ‘household’ is considered to be an adult, their partner (if they have one) and any children they have under 18. If any other adult relatives, like parents, brothers and sisters or even adult children live in the same house they are considered to be part of a different benefits ‘household’ or unit – even though they live together.

Has anything changed recently for carers and the benefit cap?

Yes, two things. Firstly, on 26 November 2015 a court case decided that the benefit cap should not apply to some groups of carers (see below). Secondly, on 25 January 2016 the Government announced that it would exempt all carers ‘receiving carer’s allowance’ from the benefit cap. They made the announcement partly in response to the court case, and partly because they are passing a new law about the benefit cap.

Which carers has the Government has said will be exempt from the benefit cap?

So far all we know is what the Government said in Parliament – that they “will be exempting all recipients of carer’s allowance from the benefit cap, whether they are single or part of a couple.” So it seems clear that if you are paid Carer’s Allowance you will be exempt from the benefit cap.

However if you have an ‘underlying entitlement’ because you receive another non-means tested benefit (such as Employment and Support Allowance), it’s not yet clear whether the Government intends to exempt you from the benefit cap.

When will the law be changed to exempt carers?

We don’t know. We are expecting the change to take place sometime this year. Until the legislation is published, we won’t know exactly who is covered, or crucially, whether the exemption will be applied retrospectively. The benefit cap was introduced from April 2013 onwards, so the exemption could be applied from that date onward, or from the date of the successful benefit cap case (see below – What is the benefit cap case?).

What should I do if I am a carer who is affected, or has been affected, by the benefit cap?

Until the law is changed, carers are still subject to the benefit cap. You should ask for a discretionary hardship payment to make up the benefit lost due to the cap, including any amount you have lost in the past. You should however read below about the benefit cap case as you can probably use it to challenge the decision to apply the benefit cap to you.