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What can I do if my benefits are cut?

What can I do if my benefits are cut?
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Benefits are an important source of financial support for many people in the UK. However, your benefits could be cut, sometimes unexpectedly and through no fault of your own.

If this occurs, knowing your options can help you limit the impact and get back on track.

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Why might my benefits be cut?

Your benefits may be reduced or stopped for one of two reasons: a benefits cap or a benefits sanction. Let’s take a look at what each means and what to do if your benefits are cut because of either.

1. Benefits cap

The benefits cap is basically a limit on the total amount of benefits one can get. It applies to the majority of people aged 16 and up who have not reached the State Pension age.

According to the government, the main aim of the benefits cap is to encourage more people to work while also restoring fairness to the benefits system and reducing government spending.

To find out if you are or will be affected by the benefits cap, you can use this benefits calculator.

How is the benefits cap is applied?

Basically, if:

  • Your total entitlement to the benefits included in the cap exceeds the Benefit Cap amount, then your benefits will be reduced to bring you within the cap amount.
  • You are claiming Housing Benefit, your weekly Housing Benefit will be reduced to the cap amount.
  • You are claiming Universal Credit, the amount of Universal Credit that you receive each month will be reduced to the cap amount.

The cap amount varies depending on where you live. It’s usually higher for people who live in London.

More info on the cap amount is available on the gov.uk website

What can I do if my benefits are cut?

Check your entitlement for other benefits

The benefits cap does not apply to all benefits. So, to make up for the shortfall, you see whether you’re eligible for any other benefits that aren’t affected by the cap.

See if you can become exempt

Some people are exempt from the benefits cap. For example, you’re exempt if you and your partner earn or work enough hours to qualify for the Working Tax Credit. So, by increasing your work hours, you can become exempt and thus prevent your benefits from being capped.

Take care of your rent shortfall

If you find yourself struggling to pay rent due to the benefits cap reducing your Housing Benefit or the housing element of your Universal Credit, you can apply to your council for a Discretionary Housing Payment.

It may also be a good idea to speak to your landlord to see if they can agree to a rent reduction. 

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2. Benefits sanction

According to the Money Advice service, your benefits might be stopped or reduced if you do not do the things you agreed to do in your claimant commitment (the document you sign when claiming benefits) or if you miss appointments or meetings. This is what is referred to as a benefits sanction.

Benefits that are subject to sanctions include:

  • Universal Credit
  • Jobseeker’s Allowance
  • Income Support
  • Employment and Support Allowance

What can I do if my benefits are sanctioned?

If you feel your benefits have been unfairly sanctions, there are things you can do about it.

Check whether the sanction is correct

If you do not believe the sanction is correct or justified, you may file a complaint with the benefits office and request that the decision be reconsidered. This is known as a mandatory consideration.

You can ask for a mandatory consideration by phone or letter. The contact details will be in the decision letter. You can also do it by completing and returning an online form. You only have one month to do this, so you must act quickly.

If the benefits office does not change its decision, you can appeal to a tribunal. However, before filing an appeal against a benefits sanction, consider seeking expert advice first, such as through Citizen Advice.

Apply for a hardship payment from the Jobcentre

If you do not have enough money to live on due to a benefits sanction, you can apply for a hardship payment from the Jobcentre. This normally pays 60% of your usual benefit payment, but you’ll have to pay it back.  

Apply to your local welfare scheme

If you are having difficulty with costs such as food or paying your bills, you might also be able to get assistance from your local welfare assistance scheme.

Final word

If your benefits are cut, you may feel as if the world is collapsing around you. However, as you can see, there are options for dealing with this issue. Rather than panicking, take stock of the situation and plan your next steps.

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