200,000 families on Universal Credit and housing benefit lose £62 a week due to benefits cap – how to get help

AROUND 200,0000 families on Universal Credit and housing benefit are missing out on an average £62 per week due to the benefits cap.

Benefits are usually capped – although this depends on claimants’ circumstances – to limit the total amount of money that’s given to households.

For Universal Credit claimants, the cap is set at £23,000 per year for couples or lone parents who live in London and £20,000 for those living outside the capital.

If you lose your job and you claim benefits, the government will give you a nine-month grace period during which your benefits will not be capped.

Many claimants who lost their jobs and saw their earnings decrease due to the Covid crisis were given this nine-month grace period to help them get by.

But that breathing space has now run out for thousands of households, and new figures from the Department for Work and Pensions show 43,000 households were newly capped between November 2020 and February this year.

What’s the cap on Universal Credit?

How much Universal Credit you are entitled to depends on your individual circumstances, such as how many children you have, how much money you earn and how many people you live with.

But it's also affected by the benefit cap, which limits the amount of welfare you can get.

The limits are:

  • £1,916.67 a month for couples and single parents in London
  • £1,666.67 a month for couples and single parents outside London
  • £1,284.17 a month for single person with no children in London
  • £1,116.67 a month for a single person with no children outside London.

There are some circumstance when the cap will not apply, including when in work and earning at least £617 a month (equivalent to working 16 hours a week at the 'national living wage') or if they receive some disability benefits.

This brings the total number of households subject to the cap up to 200,000 – 180,000 of which were Universal Credit claimants and 24,000 housing benefit claimants.

According to Child Poverty Action Group (CPAG), families subject to this threshold are losing out on £62 per week and said more families will be slapped with the cap and lose out on money when their grace periods run out too.

The charity added that those on benefits may find it harder to replace lost earnings by finding work, as cash-strapped businesses continue to be hit by the pandemic.

CPAG chief executive Alison Garnham said: “Thousands more households who have lost jobs to Covid-19 are now subject to the cap even though in the pandemic it is much harder to find ways to replace their lost earnings and become exempt.  

How to get extra help if you’re a Universal Credit claimant

IF you’re struggling to get by on your Universal Credit cash, then there is extra help available.

Here's what you could be eligible for:

Free school meals

  • You can apply for these for your child if you're claiming certain benefits including Universal Credit, jobseeker's allowance (JSA) and child tax credit.
  • You might need to apply through your local council – type in your postcode on the government website and you'll be redirected to the relevant scheme.

Council tax discount

  • You may be able to get help paying for your council tax but you’ll need to apply for a scheme that’s run by your local council on Gov.uk.
  • Depending on the scheme, you may be able to get a discount as a percentage, a set amount or the whole amount – you could save hundreds of pounds.

Half price bus or rail fares

  • The Jobcentre Plus travel card is available for free and cuts the cost of travelling on public transport, including buses and trains, by 50%.
  • You're entitled to one if you've been claiming Universal Credit for three to nine months and are aged between 18 and 24.

 £150 towards school uniforms

  • How much you can get in England to help pay for school uniforms varies depending on where you live, but you can get up to £150 in some local authorities.
  • To apply, you need to put in your postcode on the Gov.uk website, which will direct you to your council's website where you should search for “uniform grant” in the “Education” section to find out what help is available in your area.

£500 if you're pregnant

  • You may be able to get a one off payment worth £500 to help towards the costs of having a child through the Sure Start Maternity Grant.
  • To claim, you'll need to print out and fill in the Sure Start Maternity Grant (SF100) claim form.

“Especially in areas with high rents, capped families are losing large amounts of social security support and that is disastrous for the children concerned.”

Universal Credit claimants will also see their benefits drop even further at the end of the year.

Pensions Secretary Therese Coffey ruled out continuing the £20 weeklyboost low-income households have received over the Covid crisis past winter.

The Government has been giving claimants the £20 uplift since April last year – but it will stop in September.

But if you're struggling to make ends meet, you may be able to apply for a one-off payment worth up to £812 to help with bills.

The one-off payment is called a Budgeting Advance and can be taken out on top of your usual monthly payments.

The money can be used to pay for any unexpected bills or unscheduled payment hikes, or even to replace whitegoods such as a fridge if yours breaks.

And low income families relying on food banks can get free internet and phone services through a new Vodafone scheme.

The network provider is giving phones and SIM cards to one million Brits who can't otherwise afford to get online.

Thousands of jobs could be at risk after the government pushed back the end of coronavirus restrictions to next month.

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