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Benefit cap inquiry


In February 2017 the Work and Pensions Committee launched an inquiry into the Benefit cap, which could not continue due to the General Election. The Committee is now re-launching the inquiry. In written evidence to that inquiry before it stalled, the DWP said the benefit cap pursues three aims:

  • Secure the economic well-being of the country by reducing spending on benefits and encouraging positive behavioural changes;
  • Impose a reasonable limit on the total amount which a household can receive in welfare benefits to promote a fair and healthy society and maintain public confidence in the welfare system; and
  • Incentivise work to reduce poverty and increase economic prosperity.

The cap is intended to incentivise behavioural change amongst claimants and secure savings for the Exchequer. The re-opened inquiry seeks to establish to what extent is it achieving that. To what extent has claimant behaviour responded to the cap, through moving into work, moving house, etc? What effect does the lower cap have on incentives, what are the barriers to behavioural change and how can they be overcome? Does the cap address high underlying rates of housing benefit and child maintenance in a fair way? Are there unintended consequences (either positive or negative) of the cap?

The benefit cap limits the total amount of benefits and tax credits payable to a working-age household. It was first announced in the 2010 Spending Review and was rolled out in 2013. The cap originally limited payments to £500 per week (£26,000 p.a.) for a family and £350 per week (£18,200 a year) for a single person with no children.

In the Summer Budget 2015, the Government reduced the cap to £442.31 per week or £23k for a household in Greater London, £15,410 for a single person, and £384.62 per week or £ 20k for a household living outside Greater London, £13,400 a year for a single person.

The rollout of the lower cap in winter of 2016-17 caused the total number of affected households to over treble from 20,000 in November 2016 to over 70,000 five months later in March 2017. As of February 2018, 64,800 households are affected. The lower cap has also increased the geographical spread of affected claimants.

Affected households are typically those with larger numbers of children, and higher housing costs. Exemptions apply for in-work households, those with certain disability or incapacity benefit entitlements (PIP, DLA, ESA support group) or recipients of Carer’s Allowance, Guardian’s Allowance and UC carer’s element.

Get involved

The Committee now invites evidence in this re-opened inquiry, on any or all of the following points

  • How have claimants responded to the lower benefit cap?
  • What difficulties are claimants experiencing in adjusting to the cap?
  • What is the effect on claimants who are not subject to jobsearch conditionality in the benefits they claim?
  • What are the cap’s knock-on effects on other public spending, such as local authority expenditure?
  • What are the consequences for Discretionary Housing Payments (DHPs) and what impact does the use of DHPs have on behavioural change?
  • To what extent is the benefit cap achieving its aims and what steps could be taken to improve this?

The deadline for written submissions is Friday 5th October 2018.

Reports, special reports and government responses

View all reports and responses
24th Report - The benefit cap (Enhanced HTML)
Inquiry Benefit cap inquiry
HC 1477
24th Report - The benefit cap
Inquiry Benefit cap inquiry
HC 1477

Oral evidence transcripts

View all oral evidence transcripts
21 November 2018
Inquiry Benefit cap inquiry
Witnesses Justin Tomlinson, Parliamentary Under Secretary of State for Family Support, Housing and Child Maintenance, Pete Searle, DWP Policy Director, Working Age Benefits
Oral Evidence
31 October 2018
Inquiry Benefit cap inquiry
Witnesses Rob Gowans, Policy Officer, Citizens Advice Scotland, Marc Francis, Policy and Campaigns Director, Zacchaeus 2000 Trust, Josephine Tucker, Head of Policy and Research, Child Poverty Action Group, Laura Dewar, Policy Officer, GingerbreadClaire Horton, Service and Improvement Lead, Active Inclusion, Newcastle City Council, Mark Fowler, Director of Community Solutions, London Borough of Barking and Dagenham, representing London Councils, Graham Bourne, Head of Revenues and Benefits, Brighton and Hove City Council
Oral Evidence
10 October 2018
Inquiry Benefit cap inquiry
Witnesses Giovanni Tonutti, Senior Policy and Operations Analyst, Policy in Practice, Carl Emmerson, Deputy Director, Institute for Fiscal Studies, Sam Lister, Policy and Practice Officer, Chartered Institute of Housing, Jenny Pennington, Senior Research Officer, Shelter
Oral Evidence
Birmingham City Council (BEC0047)
Manchester City Council (BEC0035)
Mansfield District Council (BEC0031)

Contact us

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  • Phone: 020 7219 8976 (general enquiries) | 020 7219 1679 (media enquiries)
  • Address: Work and Pensions Committee | House of Commons | London | SW1A 0AA