Case Studies. The Bedroom Tax.
(1) Stuart Wilson, 60, is disabled and lives alone in a North Lincolnshire
Homes property on Tamar Walk, Scunthorpe. He said: "I have one spare
bedroom and I desperately don't want to move house. "I have been
in my bungalow for 12 years and had a special shower room put in
with disabled access. In order to afford this bedroom tax, I am
going to have to cut back in other areas. "It feels like people
on housing benefits are being punished. I can't move because of
the alterations to my home, so I have to pay more. "Don't get me
wrong, I understand that some people abuse the system, but there
are so many that don't. I don't think it is fair. It is a terrible
(2) Mark Webster, 44, is registered disabled and lives in a three-bedroom
council house in Telford. But under controversial new laws due to
come into force in April, he stands to lose £100 a month in housing
benefits for ‘under-occupying’ his property. From April, more than
2,000 social-housing tenants in Shropshire living in a home with
empty bedrooms will have a percentage of their housing benefit docked.
The Government argues the change will help cut the annual £23 billion
bill for housing benefit and free up space for overcrowded families.
But for former RAF serviceman and father-of-seven Mark Webster the
move signals disaster. The 44-year-old, from Rock Bank, Telford
suffers from 90 per cent hearing loss and also has from osteo-arthritis
in his hips.
He is awaiting a replacement operation and is registered as mobility and sensory disabled. He lives in a three-bedroom home owned by Wrekin Housing Trust, and it has been specially adapted to meet the needs of his disability. But under the bedroom tax Mr Webster stands to lose £100 a month in housing benefits for ‘under-occupying’ his home. Unable to work to make up the shortfall, he faces the prospect of building up huge rent arrears – which could lead to eviction. The alternative – moving to a one-bedroom property – will prevent him having access to his children, including two disabled sons. He said: “The three bedrooms of my home are occupied at the very least on weekends and school holidays. I am going to have to tell my children they can no longer come and stay.” Mr Webster, who relies on housing and disability benefits from the state in order to survive, said the situation has left him unable to sleep. The proud-ex serviceman, who worked all his life before his health failed, said his situation has made him lose faith in the Conservative Party. He said: “The Government says I am too disabled to work.” In a letter to Prime Minister David Cameron, he accused the leader of abandoning a life-long tax payer in his hour or need. He said: “Having been a Conservative voter, a proud disabled ex-serviceman, and a high rate tax payer I find myself in the position of withdrawing my support for your Government, party and this country.” A spokesman for the Department for Work and Pensions, said Government cash was available to help. He said: “We are giving councils an extra £155m to help vulnerable tenants including £30m for disabled people and foster carers.” Mark Thompson, general manager at Wrekin Housing Trust, said: “We are trying to help, including contacting all those affected to discuss options and providing extra support to those tenants who have requested it.”
(3) Graham Chapman looks forward to every weekend and school holiday
when his 13-year-old son Jake and daughter Casey, 11, come to stay
with him. But Graham, who lives in a three-bedroomed house in Owton
Manor and has a room for each of the children, says he will not
be able to afford to see his youngsters as regularly as he is faced
with cuts to his benefits after the rooms were declared as “surplus”.
Graham, 52, a former asbestos stripper and landscape gardener, survives
on £120 a week disability benefit and says “every penny counts”.
He said the cut to his housing benefit of around £30 a month, means
he cannot afford to make the 40-mile round trip to Darlington every
week to collect Jake and Casey. The children live with their mum
after she and Graham split up around seven years ago. The Housing
Hartlepool tenant said: “It is going to prevent me having my children
every week, I won’t be able to afford it. They are not surplus bedrooms
because my children come every weekend without fail and stay there.
I won’t be able to afford to go and pick them up, and then pay the
bedroom tax and housing benefit. It is going to be impossible. Instead
of every week it is going to be possibly every three weeks when
I see them, it depends how much the tax is. I need the car to pick
them up, the bus would cost more than the petrol. I’m in a no win
situation.” From April, the Government will introduce the cut in
benefits for anyone with spare bedrooms in social housing. Spare
rooms include those used by children whose main home is elsewhere.
Households deemed to have one surplus bedroom will have the level
of rent used to assess their housing benefit cut by 14 per cent.
That will rise to 25 per cent for people like Graham, who have two
“spare” bedrooms. “This bedroom tax will stop people seeing their
children,” he added. “It’s worse than mean. The Government give
you money with one hand and take it away with the other. You are
living beyond the poverty line to start with. It can’t be right.”
Graham added even if he could move into a two-bedroom house, the
changes would prevent Jake and Casey from sharing a room because
they are different sexes. Prime Minister David Cameron recently
defended the changes in Parliament saying they were part of efforts
to reduce the Government’s £23bn housing benefit bill. He questioned
why people in social housing should receive extra money for having
spare bedrooms when those in private rented accomodation do not.
Cath Purdy, Housing Hartlepool group chief executive, said: “The
changes which will impact on Mr Chapman are being introduced by
the Government. We are aware that Hartlepool Borough Council will
have a limited discretionary Housing Benefit Fund to which Mr Chapman
could apply. Housing Hartlepool will offer support and advice to
him and many tenants who will be affected by this reduction in benefit.
It will be a very difficult and challenging time for individuals
and families, and we will assist where we can.”
(4) A DISTRAUGHT couple say they will be unable to pay the bills
when the Bedroom Tax comes into force – but there are no smaller
homes for them to move into. Ed and Mandy Lunt have bid on 10 council
homes since November without success, even looking outside the borough.
The couple moved to their five-bed Birkrig home in Digmoor in 2011
with their two sons and grandson, having failed to find a four-bed
to suit their needs. But their eldest son has since left home, and
the family now face being hit with charges on the two spare rooms
when the Bedroom Tax comes in in April. The tax is part of Government
welfare reforms that will cut the amount of benefit that people
can get if they are considered to have a spare bedroom. Tenants
will lose around £13 a week on average for one extra room. Ed, who
receives Employment and Support Allowance due to a heart condition
and Income Support, said that he will be left £130 short a month
– and unable to cover costs. The couple applied to West Lancs council
to change their banding to Band A from Band D to make it easier
to downsize and were moved to Band B on appeal – but they say it
has not helped in their quest for a new home.
Ed, 50, said: “We don’t want to leave Skelmersdale but we’ve had to start looking anywhere – Ainsdale, Bootle, Liverpool – and still we’ve had no success. We were in first place on a house in Rufford earlier this week, which would have been ideal for our grandson Brandon, who is disabled. But we have lost out again. It’s not just us, there’s loads of people affected. The worry is seriously affecting the health of our family. I just don’t know what else we can do, they are just going to have to take me to court when I can’t pay the bills.”
A spokesman for West Lancs council said staff had individually contacted tenants affected to discuss the options available, while discretionary grants were available to the most vulnerable.
The spokesman said: “The council obviously only have a certain number of properties and we need to handle each person’s needs on a case by case basis.
“The couple are in a good position on the waiting list and are not far from getting a property. Not all the bids they have made have been submitted while they were in Band B. Since their banding has been changed the Lunts have bid and been shortlisted for three properties with their highest queue position being third. To increase their prospects of moving they should continue to bid on all suitable vacancies.”
MP Rosie Cooper said: “This tax will force some people to choose between food, heating or paying the rent. [It] is nothing more than a crude and naked attempt to place an even greater burden on some of the most vulnerable people in our communities.”
(5) “I lay awake at night and go through all the things I pay for
and how much I have left and come to the same conclusion every time,”
Vicky Evans* tells me. “I just cry about it.”
The 49-year-old is one of 660,000 social housing tenants due to have their housing benefit cut when the so-called "bedroom tax" comes into effect in April, and who are currently living with the fear of what this will mean for them. Under the changes, working-age people in social housing who are deemed to be "under-occupying" their home will have to move to a smaller property or see their housing benefit reduced; a 14 per cent cut for people seen to have one spare room and 25 per cent for those with two or more. It’s a policy that is in effect targeting some of the most vulnerable members of society and will make life harder for people already struggling to get by.
According to the Government’s own impact assessment, almost two-thirds of the tenants affected will be from households that contain someone who has a disability. Already living on low incomes and seeing cuts to other benefits, they now face losing an average of £14 a week, and up to £80 a month.
Money is tight for Vicky. She’s had severe anxiety. Both of her parents and brother died by the time she was in her twenties. She has arthritis and sleep apnoea, leaving her unable to work. It means she has to live on £101 a week; a combination of income support and the low rate of Disability Living Allowance. With two spare bedrooms, she is set lose a quarter of her housing benefit.
“I’m worried sick about this bedroom tax,” Vicky tells me. “When the tax comes in, for me it’s going to be a choice between that and my gas and electric.” She says she tried to tell the council she wouldn’t pay the tax. “They said as soon as I’m £50 in arrears then they will take me to court and [that] will lead to eviction.”
By the logic of this policy, Vicky should simply move to a one-bedroom property. However, she has looked on the housing list and there are no one-bedroom houses or flats within ten miles. This is a familiar story for people waiting for the bedroom tax to hit: tenants being told they are "under-occupying" their home but having nowhere to go. One-bedroom properties are rare in social housing and it’s estimated almost 95,000 people in England could be forced into arrears from April, unable to cope with the benefit cuts but with no smaller home available for them to move to.
Vicky has lived on the same street for 27 years and in her current home for five of them. “I feel happy, safe and comfortable where I live,” she says.
When we talk she always refers to her house as “home”, because, she explains, “that’s what it is to me.” She knows everyone near her and everyone knows her, she tells me. The familiarity helps her anxiety and she’s clearly frightened at the thought of having to leave the area.
“If I have to leave my home and be put away from the places and people I know then I don't know how I'll cope,” she says.
(6) Fred Williams understands what it is to be reliant on your home.
He has cerebral palsy and his two-bedroom council house in south
London has been heavily adapted to meet his needs. Williams, 59,
had shared the house with his wife and step-children since 1991
but after the break-up of his marriage, now lives alone. Under the
housing benefit changes, he will be classified as "under-occupying"
what was his family home and is now being told to look for somewhere
smaller to live.
“We’re talking about disabled people who can't just be picked up and dumped anywhere,” he tells me.
His house has over twenty years’ worth of adaptations to it. There’s an existing stairlift and the council added ramps to the front and back doors. It also now has an extended kitchen and an accessible shower.
Any property he moved to would have to be similarly adapted, he stresses. It’s an example of the cold economic thinking behind the bedroom tax: moving people from adapted homes, on the justification of savings for the public purse, only to have to pay for identical changes to whatever property they move to.
Like Vicky Evans, Williams has found the added problem that there simply aren’t the one-bedroom properties available to meet the demand. “In London Borough of Greenwich, I’m told to date there are 15 vacant one-bedroom flats,” he says. “There are over 800 on the waiting list for them.”
He is in the trap the bedroom tax is making nationwide: told to downsize or lose benefits, he will lose benefits because he cannot downsize. Finding ways to make up the short fall is difficult for anyone on a low income but, as Williams knows, poverty is compounded by being disabled.
His disability has meant he’s been unable to work since 2006 and is reliant on Employment Support Allowance (ESA) for his income. The Government has made no exemption from the bedroom tax for people on ESA, even those placed in the "support group" like Williams – those who have been classified as too sick or disabled to have the possibility of being employed. This is not only a tax on the poorest but people who have been classified by the Government itself as being without the physical or mental ability to financially support themselves.
It’s a fact that is going ignored, even in the letters currently being sent to people’s homes advising them they “need to start planning how [they] will make up that extra amount” they will lose in April. Fred Williams shows me the letter he received last month from his local housing association. Despite the fact that he is on ESA, the letter advises him to get help finding a job or suggests he could “try to increase [his] working hours.” It’s hard to see the letter as anything other than a reflection of a system that is both incompetently and inhumanely ignoring people’s needs. The letter begins by referring to a conversation between Williams and his housing association that he tells me never happened. He has a speech impediment and when we speak, we do so via email. “So how did they talk to me?” he says. “I had no conversation with anyone from Greenwich housing department.” Williams tells me he watches Iain Duncan Smith on television promising protection for the disabled, but can't see it happening. “The whole issue surrounding the Bedroom Tax is a con,” he says. “[This] Government…are hell bent on making disabled people's lives hell.”
(7) This is a familiar feeling for Jayson Lowery and his wife Charlotte.
Charlotte, 40, has a severe spinal condition and is partially confined
to her bed. Her husband is her full-time carer and they have to
get by on Jayson’s carer’s allowance. Things are difficult generally
for them right now.
“We don’t know what the new council tax regime is yet,” Jayson, 50, tells me. “My carer’s allowance as well might be submerged into universal credit this year.” The bedroom tax doesn’t come in isolation but rather is a new worry to a mounting list.
In their two-bed flat in Southport, there’s a single bed in one room and a specialist NHS-type, bed in the other. Charlotte’s wheelchair sits there too, cramped in with other medical equipment. Her condition means she can’t share a normal bed with her husband and their flat, partly adapted for Charlotte’s needs, is too small to put both beds in one room. From April, the couple will lose £12 a week because of this. Despite the fact that Charlotte sleeps in it every night, due to the fact that she lives with her partner, her room will be classified as ‘spare’.
It’s harmful for Charlotte to lie on anything other than a specialist mattress and Jayson is clearly worried. “She has two permanent pressure sores which are relieved by this mattress,” he tells me. “All Charlotte’s toileting is done in the bed.”
He has looked for a one-bedroom property but there are none big enough in their housing sector to fit both beds in one room.
The Lowerys' situation is one example of an issue at the heart of the bedroom tax: what is a vital room to many people is "spare" to the government. It results in a policy that penalises people for being simultaneously poor and disabled. Someone with a disability is more likely to need extra space, and are less likely to be able to pay for it.
When we speak, Jayson has just started the application for a discretionary housing payment; the "top up" benefit local councils can award to people struggling to pay the rent. He isn’t optimistic.
“[I] don’t know if it'll cover everything or if we have enough adaptions [to the flat] to qualify,” he says. “We’ll have to give it a go.”
The Government have made an extra £30m available to the DHP fund from 2013/14 specifically to help people living in significantly adapted accommodation who will be affected by the bedroom tax. It is being promoted as both mitigation and justification for the reforms but it’s a tiny fund that’s shared by foster parents (also not exempt from the "under-occupation" penalty) and will reach a minority of the disabled tenants affected. In reality, the only help being offered is a short-term, unreliable plaster to a significantly deeper wound: welfare reforms that penalise people with disabilities for having extra needs.
(8) There are adult-sized nappies filling Linda Taylor’s box room.
She is another person who has just been informed by her housing
association that her family will have their benefits cut for needing
a room that’s been classified as "spare".
Linda, 43, and her husband share their three-bedroom home with their severely disabled son, Adam, and are his full time carers. Adam has heart, kidney and spinal problems which leave him with no mobility. He can’t use the bathroom and is bottled fed pureed food.
As for many people with disabilities, their "spare" room is packed with the multiple pieces of equipment Adam needs each day. It’s a small space but it contains a pressure mattress for physio and play, oxygen cylinders, two specialist chairs to help him sit, and a special table with sensory toys his mum tells me Adam stands against while he’s strapped in his standing sling. Thirty four packs of twenty nappies are also there, stored to last three months.
The room is used by a carer sometimes, during the day or night. “I was told [by the Housing Association] that to be exempt the carer would have to be asleep,” Linda tells me.
“I feel so frustrated,” she says. “The only solution I can see is to go and find a job which I would be willing to do if the council is willing to provide the full care needed for my son . . . When you can only get eleven hours care a week we’ve got no chance of changing life for the better. We’re left in a no win situation.”
(9) Jimmy Daly, 50, is finding it difficult to see how things are
going to improve for him and his son. The nine-year-old has learning
difficulties and spastic quadriplegia and lives between his mum’s
house and his dad’s two-bedroom maisonette. When the changes come
into effect, Daly will have his housing benefit cut for having a
bedroom for his son that isn’t used every day.
“I’m finding it very very hard at the moment,” he tells me. “And when they take about £10 a week off me, well I don’t know…It’s wrong.”
He’s currently living on £71-a-week Job Seeker’s Allowance and his attempts to find work are leading to nothing. He cares for his son three nights a week, takes him to school and back and looks after him in the holidays.
Under the new housing benefit rules, a severely disabled child who needs a room of their own may be permitted not to share without a loss to the family’s benefit. However, this is only the case for the child’s "main residence" and won’t take into account people sharing custody. Parents like Daly are going to be penalised for doing their part in taking care of their child and, worse, for that child being disabled.
“If this goes ahead I’ll have to move into a one-bedroom flat,” he says. “How do you sleep in the same bedroom as a disabled boy?”
He has no money to make up the short fall in benefit. Due to his son’s extra needs, he is already paying more for heating, electricity, water, food, and diesel, he tells me. As another worried parent of a disabled child who got in touch said to me, no amount of extra socks helps a disabled child. These parents have no choice but to keep their homes permanently warm.
“I don’t use heating when he isn’t here,” Daly says. “I can’t afford it.”
He tells me right now all he can see for himself is giving up his car which he needs to pick up his son or becoming homeless. “If I do end up homeless I’ll no longer be able to see my son. If that happens I won’t cope with that,” he says. “I know I’ll be better off taking my own life.”
The next two months will be a wait for the bedroom tax to hit. He adds, “I hope I get a job by then.”
(10) A family will lose £80 a month under the hated new
bedroom tax – after an extension prescribed by doctors is built
for their disabled girl. Health chiefs say Angel Hooper, five,
who cannot walk or stand, must have the custom-built room. But
the bedroom tax means parents Gary and Heather will lose £20 a
week – because she won’t be sharing it. Gary told the Sunday
People: “It is disgusting that they think a disabled child like
Angel should share a room.”
The couple have five children with another on the way and live in a four-bedroom council house in Hull. When Angel’s special room is built the government’s new tax, due in April, will plunge the Hoopers and 95,000 other families into poverty. The levy, called “under occupancy tax”, means council or housing association tenants with ‘spare’ bedrooms will lose £40 to £80 a month in benefits. There are no exceptions for disabled kids, elderly who need care or families with children fighting in Afghanistan.
Angel’s parents care for her 24/7 and mum Heather, 28, warned: “I think the tax could make people with disabled children depressed or suicidal.”
Angel developed meningitis and septicaemia when she was 12 days old, leaving her severely disabled. The box room she has outgrown is too small to be classed as a bedroom at 6ft by 9ft. Her wheelchair doesn’t fit so she has to be carried in and out by her dad. But the extension recommended by the local NHS Occupational Therapy team will mean the house is reclassified. And under new rules for larger families, bedrooms must be shared by two kids, so the Hoopers will be deemed to have a spare.
Dad Gary, 44, who receives a £58.58 a week carer’s allowance, says he hopes Angel’s extension will mean he can return to work. “When I was made redundant I became Angel’s carer because my wife can’t lift her into her room.” Angel’s appalling case was raised last week in the House of Commons by MP Diana Johnson who branded the tax “shambolic” and “unfair”.
(11) Tony, Diann and their two daughters live in 3 bed house in Hull.
Shanice is three years old. But their 15 year old daughter Stephanie
is disabled. She has 1p36 deletion syndrome, a genetic disorder
that causes severe intellectual disability. So she has problems
with mobility, speech and language. She has a mental age of a four
or five year old. At the moment, all three bedrooms are accounted
for: One for mum and dad, one for Shanice and one for Stephanie.
15-year-old Stephanie requires 24 hour care from her parents.
From April, as social tenants, they will face a cut in their benefits to pay the government's so called 'bedroom tax'. Under new rules, the two girls will have to share a bedroom, because they're both under 16 and both of the same gender. Therefore, the family will be deemed as having a spare bedroom. So they have a choice: Take a 14% cut in benefits or downsize to a smaller place. They say there is no way the girls can share a bedroom: Stephanie wakes up about five or six times a night and lashes out and can be violent. She has to be cajoled back to bed.
At times, like last Friday night, Tony told me she woke up at a quarter past two in the morning, and finally went to bed at a quarter to seven. He says, Shanice just would not be safe, she would be harmed if they shared a bedroom. They cannot downsize. The house has been adapted for Stephanie's needs. If they moved to a two bed, they would need a carer (at taxpayer's expense) to keep Shanice safe at night and the carer would need a room. So they would be moved to a three bed, but then they would not need a carer as Stephanie would have her own room but then they would face the 'bedroom tax.' Taking a hit on their benefits, means £50 less a month and also means mum and dad skipping meals and cutting down on heating and electricity. Both are Stephanie's full-time carers, she needs 24 hour vigilance as she has no sense of danger. Although Tony is Stephanie's primary carer, mum, Diann looks after all of the teenager's personal care. They would be entitled to a discretionary housing payment, a hardship fund of £30 million has been set up by the government. But it will be up to the local authority to decide who gets the money. Also, it is not ring fenced and even if they do get the financial assistance, it will only be for a limited time. When the cash runs out of the pot, it will not be topped up. The Prime Minister, David Cameron said this week, 'this is not a tax, this is a benefit.' He insisted it is fair and said claimants living in private rented housing did not get benefits for unoccupied rooms.
(12) Hayley Woods has been fostering children for seven years. She
lives in a three bedroom house in Oldham, Lancashire. She has a
ten-year-old child in her care and a second spare bedroom, ready
to take another. But from April, her bedrooms will be deemed empty,
even though they may have children in them under the so called 'bedroom
tax' policy being introduced by the government. Hayley told me it
was a disgrace that the very families the state relies to help some
of the most vulnerable children in society, those that have been
abandoned, neglected and abused should be treated this way. She
says they will be invisible. She says many foster carers she's spoken
to say they will stop fostering, as they feel there is no incentive
to continue. Ms Woods stands to lose around £80 a month. The Department
of Work and Pension (DWP) told me, in 2013/14 councils will be receiving
£155m to support households affected by reforms. This includes £30m
for foster carers and disabled people in adapted properties. They
do not want the so called 'bedroom tax' to discourage people from
being foster carers. A DWP spokesperson said: "It's fair that we
ensure social housing is used appropriately and that the state no
longer pays for people to live in homes too big for their needs.
However we've provided £30 million to councils to ensure that groups
like foster carers and disabled people are protected."
(13) Terry Avery had a severe stroke three years ago and is unable
to use the left side of his body, and is in a wheelchair. The couple
live in a two bedroom home, specially adapted to Terry's health
needs. Karen said it would be impossible for the couple to sleep
in the same room: "With the hospital bed, lift, chest of drawers
and turning space for his wheelchair there is no space for a wardrobe
which is kept in my bedroom. There is not even room for me to sleep
on the floor comfortably, which I would have to do as there is no
room for a second bed or mattress."
(14) Dawn Sinclair is a single parent of two children and suffers
from curvature of the spine and other back problems, leaving her
unable to work. She said she is worried about the costs associated
with moving from her home. "When you are on benefits you have to
budget very carefully. There is no room for unexpected expenses.You
can't imagine the panic you feel when that large bill comes in or
something breaks down. As for privately rented accommodation well
they are quite expensive around here and the local housing allowance
for this area is £76 a week for a one bedroom. Most flats are well
above that and they do not offer secure leases so you will be moving
every year. it is a very bad situation for so many people."
(15) Clare Curness suffers from complications related to operations
to remove bowel cancer in 2007. She lost her job in 2011 due to
her illness, and almost lost her home as she could not pay her mortgage,
but now rents her home from the council. She receives nutrition
through a machine which she hooks herself up to, and uses her second
room as a sterile medical room to do this.
"I live on my own because I am not confident with the way I am and I am embarrassed they way my body is. Without my medication and feed I would have complete organ failure within a week. I have no one that I can look to for help as my family have passed away. Since I found out last week that my benefit will be affected I haven't slept. I'm worried sick and do not know where I am going to get the money from to pay the shortfall. It is not possible for me to move and anyway why should I be moved from a safe environment where I can trust my neighbours and who do look out for me."
(16) Andy Dobson was born with MED (multiple epiphyseal dysplasia)
and uses a walking stick and a wheelchair. His wife Carol is his
carer. They live in a three bedroom property. One of the rooms has
been fitted with a lift from the ground floor, meaning there is
no room left for a bed. They will now have to register for a smaller
property. Andy said: "We feel this new law is justified but needs
to have a better safety net to stop people being penalised if you
have major adaptations in a bedroom or carers staying over due to
(17) Yvonne is a foster carer who lives in a three bedroom house,
and cares for three children, two boys and one girl. Two bedrooms
in her house are classified as empty, as foster children are not
counted as permanent residents. She will have to pay the extra money
to continue caring for children in her three bedroom home. She said:
"From April, the bedroom tax will have to come out of the foster
allowance, because apparently foster children don't exist in your
household, meaning two bedrooms are classed as vacant, even though
they are occupied by children. What happens to every child matters,
these children are being told this is not their home, even though
they have lived here for 9 years. It is an absolute disgrace."
(18) Mark and Mandy Sloan are both disabled and live in a three bedroom
house. Their dining room has been adapted to a bedroom, but the
house does not serve their needs. They want to move into more suitable
accommodation, but their council will not agree, and they will have
to pay extra from April. Mark said: "My wife can't get out the house
as she is in an electric wheel chair and we don't have access, without
someone putting ramps down. Why should we pay for extra rooms when
we are in an house we don't want to be in? Surely there is a family
with a disabled child which would live our house."
(19) Wendy Morrison, from Aspley in Nottingham, has told ITV News
Central that the new so called "bedroom tax" will have a big
impact on her family. She lives in a council house with her
12-year-old daughter and says she'll have to pay an extra £650 a
year and may also have to consider moving house.
Wendy Morrison, from Aspley in Nottingham, lives in a council
house with her 12-year-old daughter Codie.
She's had a spare room since her elder daughter left home.
Under the new so-called "bedroom tax", she says she'll have to pay an extra £650 a year.
(20) AT JUST 3ft 5in, Iris Henderson’s life has been one of struggle. Born with dwarfism – or restricted growth – she has fought discrimination and prejudice all her life. But Iris faces a new battle in the shape of the Tories’ bedroom tax, which threatens to force her out of the home where she has lived for 35 years.
The 59-year-old faces losing a quarter of her housing benefit unless she moves out of the house that has been specially adapted to ease her day-to-day life. Iris said: “What David Cameron and George Osborne have presided over is barbarity. The Conservatives are not interested in human beings, all they are interested in is number crunching. They want to reduce the welfare bill by whatever means. They don’t care if your life is destroyed or not. We’re just collateral damage.”
Iris lives on her own in a three-bed housing association home in Cumbernauld, near Glasgow, but her daughter Donna often stays over. She has spent thousands on adapting the house to cater for her disability. She paid £4500 to have the appliances and units in her kitchen made lower so she can cook with ease and reach pots and pans. She said: “I have bought most of the things I have to make my life easier myself. I’ve never applied for any grants.”
Iris faces losing £72 a month in benefits. She said: “I would lose a significant amount of my income and would become more housebound. I wouldn’t have the money for the small luxuries in life like going to the cinema or having a meal with my friends. Going into town on the train with my daughter, having lunch together and watching the buskers on Sauchiehall Street is a rare treat for me. It makes me feel part of society. What Cameron will do with his bedroom tax is condemn a lot of people to social isolation. He has a swinging brick for a heart. I voted Conservative in the 2010 general election. Cameron, who had a disabled son, said he was going to help people with disabilities and I took him at his word. Instead, he has saddled us with a bedroom tax. I feel enraged. He has no idea how disabled people live. I live in constant pain and have to crawl into bed at night because of my curved spine. If I want to buy new clothes, I have to get them specially made. Clothes companies don’t cater for my disability. It can cost £200 for a dress or £500 for a coat. When Donna got married, I had to pay £400 for a mother-of-the-bride dress and coat. Because my feet are swollen with arthritis, I also have to get shoes made. I can’t go to the sales.”
Iris’s dad was over 6ft, her mum was 5ft 7in and her older sister was 5ft 8in. But Iris was born with a condition known as spondyloepiphyseal dysplasia. It is the same form of restricted growth that affects celebrity actor Warwick Davis, who starred in the Harry Potter movies and BBC’s Life’s Too Short with Ricky Gervais.
Iris said: “It hasn’t been an easy life. I’ve been shunned for a disability that I couldn’t help. I remember, when I was 18, speaking to a woman who was pregnant. When I went to touch her belly, she screamed, ‘Get your hands off, I might have a child like you.’ I was just a young lassie at the time and left in tears. I also remember arranging to go on a blind date and, when I turned up at the restaurant, he shouted, ‘Oh my god, how do people like you survive? People like you should be put down at birth. This was despite him being a social worker and me telling him beforehand that I was 3ft 5in.”
Iris worked as a typist for British Rail from the age of 18 to 24 before her spine was damaged by her pregnancy. Now, Iris suffers from arthritis and osteoporosis and needs crutches to walk.
Donna, who is 5ft 8in, said: “This has been my mum’s home most of her life. It is also my family home. So many of my memories are tied into this house. I celebrated my 18th and 21st here and I left from here on my wedding day. I live nearby but, when I’m not here, my mum has neighbours she has known for years and who look out for her. If that is taken away, she will lose her support system.”
(21) Livija Upmalis, 58, has mental health problems and
osteoarthritis, which requires her to walk with two sticks. She
has lived at her present address in Little London for 16 years. “I have been told I have three options: pay the rent, move
home or take in a lodger, which I don’t want to do,” she said.
“The closer April gets the more I am thinking about it. I am
dreading the worst thing that can happen and that is getting
evicted. I like the area. I applied for a one bedroom flat, but
the council gave me a two bedroom flat because all the one
bedroom ones had been taken.”
(22) Carole O’Keefe, 44, has lived in her two-bedroom flat on the
sixth floor of a faded 1960s tower block since last January. She
bought her own house but a marriage breakdown and a fire which let
her in hospital meant she “lost everything”. She does not have a
television or a functioning cooker and can’t afford to turn on the
electricity-gobbling storage heaters in her home overlooking the
She has £25 a week for food, clothes and travel per week but will soon have to find £11 from that to pay for the extra rent for the small, unfurnished “spare” bedroom, she said. “When I was offered the property I was asked if I minded living in a high rise, and I said I didn’t. Most people take the flat and then go back on the waiting list looking for a house,” she said. “I am resilient. I can stand up and say I am not putting up with this. I know a lot of people who won’t and I am prepared to fight their corner as well,” she said.
(23) Liz Kitching, 55, is chronically ill and has been in her top
floor flat in the north of the city for the past nine years. Each
Saturday she has her 15-year-old, disabled grandson to stay in her
spare room to give her daughter a break. Unless she can cover
the additional £15 a week she will have taken from her employment
support allowance, which currently leaves her £24 a week after
bills, from April she is also facing arrears and eviction.
A veteran of the 1980s anti-poll tax movement she says she is not going anywhere. “I feel worried, frightened, upset. But at the same time I am proud of the campaign and that does give me a little bit of confidence and hope because we did stop the poll tax. I am not a victim. This is a policy I am fighting back against.”
(24) Paul and Tish Holmes, of Greygarth Close, moved into their
four-bedroom house shortly after they were married 20 years ago.
It is where they brought up four daughters. Due to Tish's severe
arthritis, their home has been fitted with a modified shower,
stairlift and ramps. The new rule means they will be forced to
move because they cannot find the extra £80 per month. They will
not be allowed spare bedrooms for visitors or for when Tish, 59,
is so ill she has to sleep alone.
Paul, 55, said: "This is our home. We don't want to go but we're being forced to. Even if they put us in a two-bedroom flat they would still charge us for under-occupancy. I don't know who dreamed this tax up but it's ruining lives."
(25) A family who moved into a three-bedroom council house after
being told they couldn't have a two-bedroom property because
they have too many children have since been told they will have
to pay a 'bedroom tax'.
Beth Brant and partner Daryl Burns live with their two children in a council house on Osmond Place, Worsbrough Bridge. Daryl also has two other children who stay with them for three days a week. The couple had applied for a two bedroom house at Ward Green but claim they were told they couldn't have it because Daryl's children live with them half the week and would have to be taken into account. As a result they applied for a three-bedroom home and took the one in Worsbrough Bridge. But since moving in last month the couple have been told they are under-occupying as Daryl's children are not taken into account when deciding the number of rooms needed and say they will have to pay an extra £12.50 a week in rent from April because they are classed as having a spare bedroom.
Beth, 20, said they will struggle to meet the cost as she is on an apprenticeship wage, but works full-time hours, and Daryl doesn't work as he suffers depression. "I am working 37.5 hours a week doing my apprenticeship and that's for £2.65 an hour and I can't have any more hours to make up the difference in rent," she said. "When we were signing up to the house we were told about the bedroom tax coming into place but we were also told we wouldn't be affected because my partner's children live with us for half the week. We didn't think any more about it and then we got a letter saying we had one bedroom spare. The reason we've been given is because children we do not receive child benefit for are not taken into account when deciding requests and they are not classed as living with us. The letter says we have to pay an extra four per cent in rent a week, take in a lodger or get more hours at work. But who is going to want to live here Sunday to Wednesday when Daryl's kids aren't here?"
(26) A Hertfordshire couple will see their housing benefit cut by
£29 per week to keep a bedroom shrine to their son. Tony Chapman
died of lymphoblastic leukaemia cancer in November 2002, aged 14,
after a 10-year health battle.
Cheryl and Michael Chapman live in a three-bedroom council house in Welwyn Garden City and said they would go without food to keep their son's room. Welwyn and Hatfield council said the rules gave them no discretion but the couple had the option to pay and stay. The Chapmans were offered a one-bedroom flat and advised of money they would be docked if they remained in their current home.
In a statement the borough council said about 900 council homes would be affected by the so-called "bedroom tax" changes from April and advice letters on the options that tenants face have been sent out. The statement said: "If they wish to remain in their property and receive less housing benefit then by all means this is their choice. "Neither the benefit service nor the trust has any intention of placing pressure on them to transfer to a smaller property."
The couple suffer health problems and and have not worked since their son died a decade ago. They have kept a light on in the room since the day they got back from the hospice where their son died. Mrs Chapman said: "Tony was a lovely, happy boy who loved to tell jokes. He was four-and-a-half when we were told he had a blood disease and that started 10 years of visits to hospitals. We have kept the room as it was when he died. His hats, which he used to wear when he lost his hair, are hung up next to his posters and pictures of him. Some people have said we should move on but the pain of loss that you suffer every day does not go away. All our memories of him are in this house where he grew up. We can't really afford the £29 but we'll go without food rather than move away."
The council statement said: "Welwyn Hatfield Borough Council and the Community Housing Trust are sensitive to the issues that are facing many tenants who will be affected by the 'bedroom tax' (Social Housing Under Occupancy) from April 2013. "The Trust has already visited many of the 900 homes affected offering help and support. Neither the council nor the Community Housing Trust has any discretion to operate outside of the act. Though we sympathise with Mr and Mrs Chapman, we can only advise them of their options."
(27) The mother of two British soldiers has spoken of her
outrage after learning she has to pay £100 in “bedroom tax” to
keep their rooms while they serve their country. Lisa Harrison
will have to hand over more than half of her teaching
assistant wage once the new rules on under-occupancy come into
force in April.
Lisa is mother to Darren, 20, who has served in Afghanistan and Stephen, 16, who will start his basic training this spring after signing up to the armed forces. Ms Harrison, from North Shields, North Tyneside, is pleading that she should be given an exemption because the rooms are needed for her boys when they return from war zones.
Ms Harrison, 41, said: “We have been told there is no additional help from the council, that my rent will go up by £100 a month. Over half my wage will now be in rent. I was told the only option was to take in a lodger to cover the rent, but if my sons are on leave what would I say to them: that they have to sleep on the sofa? That is not going to happen. It is either that or downsize to a one-bedroom flat – but then, again, where would my boys go when they come back? I don’t think the Government has thought through this bedroom tax, people like me who have children who are away a lot get punished. They are serving their country, why should they not be allowed to have a bed when they get home? If they were men in their 30s I could understand, but Darren is just 20.”
Ministers have repeatedly defended plans to reduce housing benefit if a person has spare rooms, saying the moves will encourage families to move into small properties and reduce the waiting list. A North Tyneside Council spokesperson said: “We are working to ensure that all residents are aware of how welfare reform might affect them, and to provide help and advice where needed. As well as advice days arranged with partner agencies, letters have been sent to all those affected detailing the support available. The letters included information about the Discretionary Housing Payment Fund which will enable those who receive housing benefit to apply for additional help with rent costs in cases of hardship. The council has increased the amount of money in this fund to the maximum allowed by the Government to help deal with emergency cases.”
(28) A Gateshead grandfather has said the Government's
bedroom tax will force him out of his family home. John
Jewitt said plans to cut housing benefit for those with a
spare bedroom will mean he and his wife Tracey will be
punished for having a three-bedroom family home.
The couple’s two children moved out last year, though the parents still help look after their grandchild. But despite this they face a fight on their hands to keep their Birtley home. Council landlords have told the out-of-work couple they will have to either increase the amount they pay in rent or find a one-bedroom property. But, as Mr Jewitt, 43, has told his Gateshead Housing Company landlords, there are simply not enough one-bedroom homes to go around.
He said: “We have lived here for 13 years and now we either struggle to find more rent or we move out, it just doesn’t seem fair. We registered with Tyne and Wear Homes to downsize, because we knew we couldn’t afford to stay in this one, we’re forced out by this bedroom tax. But every home I have bid on has been unsuccessful. I asked why this is happening and they said that Gateshead Council mainly gives these one-bed properties to emergency cases. We made our house a home to be proud of, we have taken out loans to make this our home, we have made the garden better, done up the kitchen, put in new doors and we just have to leave this. If we don’t get a new property we will face arrears and debt, that’s our choice. And it’s difficult because we brought our kids up in this house, if we move into the one bedroom, my daughter and her boyfriend work, we look after the baby for them when they go to work, it’s just little details like that they don’t seem to care about.”
Gateshead Housing Company has insisted nobody will be forced to leave. A spokesman said: “There are almost 3,000 council tenants in Gateshead who will be directly affected by the social housing size criteria from this April. Over the past year we have aimed to raise awareness of the Government’s changes to benefits to all of our 21,000 tenants and leaseholders. In November, we began a programme of personal visits to tenants of working age potentially affected by a reduction in housing benefit as a result of them being deemed to under-occupy their home when compared to the Government's rules. Most tenants want to stay in their current home. We aim to support them in whichever option they choose.”
(29) Angela Suttey, from Stevenage, is among hundreds of others
in Comet country who will be affected by the Government
initiative, which cuts the amount of benefits council and housing
association tenants are entitled to if they have spare rooms. The
mother-of-six lives with two of her children in a four-bedroom
house in Great Ashby, owned by the housing association, the
Guinness Trust. Under Government rules, which come into effect in
April, she would have to pay tax on two of her rooms, because her
daughters, both under 16, are expected to share a room. Ms Suttey,
49, who moved to Stevenage in 2011, told the Comet: “There’s no
room for a bunk bed in the rooms, because they’re so small. We’re
already struggling. We don’t have the heating on, but will sit on
the sofa with blankets, and when the girls go upstairs I always
remind them about the lights. I lost my dad in August, and my mum
often comes to stay, and I look after my brother’s two children,
because childcare is so much. It will hit us hard.”
(30) Maria Crossland, 60, is a divorcée who worked as a welder
for 40 years and is recovering from a hip operation. Her best
friend is next door and other neighbours drop in for chats and
help with shopping and lifts to hospital. Maria desperately wants
to stay but will need to find an extra £17 a week. It means she
will have to cut back on food or heating bills.
She said: “When the pain gets really bad my daughter will come from Kent to stay with me. She’s got three kids so I need the extra room for when they stay. They come for the holidays as well and sometimes for long weekends. I’ve worked all my life and paid my way. All I want to do is stay in my own home and have my family come to see me. Working people are supporting people who get paid a fortune, who live in big houses with loads of rooms. We pay for their travel and dinners and they fiddle their expenses.”
(30) Elizabeth Andrew, 61, watched her husband die in her arms two
years ago and now has to move out of their home because she will
lose £26 a week. She says: “My husband was the love of my life.
I can’t move on. How can I leave our home? Why should I? I am a
British citizen and I worked all my life and paid my stamp. If
the Government hadn’t shifted the goalposts about pensions I’d
be drawing my pension now and I’d be safe in my home. It isn’t
(31) Allen Asiimwe is a wheelchair user who lives in a bungalow that
has been adapted to meet her access needs. The bungalow has three
bedrooms and she has two children aged eleven and three. She is
categorised as under-occupying her property under the new rules on
the basis that her children could share a room. She says that she
is terrified at the prospect of having to move out.
"I was offered this house in 2009. I was waiting a long time it wasn't like 'here is a house for you'. To tell me to move out is like taking my life away. I will need to pay an extra £23 a week to stay. I have no income apart from my benefits. It's ridiculous."
(32) Mrs Jones has lived in her three bedroom house since 1999.
She is married and has three daughters, one of whom lives with
her and one who returns from university several times a year.
In 2012, the property was an adapted for Mrs Jones's
disabilities at a cost of four and a half thousand pounds. It
will cost Mrs Jones an extra £15 each week to stay in her
"We've been looking for a two bedroom house because I can't afford the extra money. Whoever moves here will need a wet room because they won't change it back to a bathroom. I'm talking to a lady who has an adapted house and who needs a three bedroom house but apart from her there really isn't anyone else."
Any move will depend on whether or not the tenant Mrs Jones has been talking to can obtain grants to make the adaptations she needs. The rules, according to Mrs Jones, need to be less rigid. "My legs get very jumpy at night and sometimes my husband can't sleep with me. So if we move, he's going to have to sleep on the sofa."
(33) Judy Blake has bipolar and lives in a two bedroom property
in Leeds. Her son is at university but returns home as often
as he can. The cost of remaining in the property will be an
extra £10 a week.
"I've already started cutting back on the heating and buying cheaper food, I've got no choice. If I move to a one bedroom place, where will my son go when he comes back from university? It's important for me to see him as much as I can because he's the only relative I have. I am bipolar and had an abusive childhood and find it difficult to make friends. He's the only person there when I'm not well."
(34) Alan lives in Dumfries and Galloway and has recently
received a letter from his Social Housing Landlord to tell him he
has been identified as being affected by the proposed changes to
Housing Benefit. Andrew lives with his wife in a 2 bedroom
property. Alan and his wife both have Learning Disabilities. They
are supported by a national voluntary organisation.
Alan has lived in this house for around 15 years. He first moved into this house with someone else who had a learning disability as co flatmates. After this person moved out, Alan married and his wife moved in.
Alan has never asked for this property. This is where he was “placed” many years ago. Alan and his wife do not particularly want to move. They are happy living in this house where they feel safe and know the neighbours. They do not want to take in a lodger and would not feel safe doing so. Even if they choose to move it is not clear whether anyone locally can offer them a one bedroom house anyway.
(35) Lorna who lives in the east end of Glasgow stays with her aging
mother in a two bedroom council house. She has lived her for most
of her life. But now she is worried that if anything happens to
her mother, she will not be able to stay in the same house. The
plan had been for her to take on the tenancy if her mother died or
had to move into residential care. But if the housing benefit
changes are implemented then she might not be able to afford to
manage the rent. Right now she doesn’t need a lot of support as
she knows her way about the house and the local area. If she has
to move then she is likely to need more long term help which will
be an extra cost on the welfare state. This matter won’t save
money instead it will cost more.
(36) Council house tenant Eddie Bird says the policy fails to
take into consideration individual cases. His wife Shirley
has terminal cancer, and weighing just five-and-a-half stone,
needs her own room. "Any form of movement on the bed and it
affects my wife. She's in constant back pain," said Mr Bird.
"There's no room for separate beds so I sleep in the box
room." They have been told they will lose nearly £14 a week
in benefits. "It's going to affect my wife's quality of life.
We have a Motability car but if we can't afford to put petrol
in it, we can't go on any day
(37) Mum Sarah Thomson, 50, was shocked to discover she will have to
shell out £12.60 a week for her foster child’s bedroom. She looks
after a 16-year-old boy as well as her own son, Archie, 19, but is
deemed to be under-occupying her three-bedroom home in Cheltenham,
Glos – because the boy doesn’t count. Single parent Sarah, who
gave up work three years ago to give the children her full focus,
said: “It’s so hurtful, it’s as if the Government are saying my
foster child doesn’t exist.” She has looked after dozens of other
people’s children but now has to make up the money or face
downsizing and even quitting fostering.
(38) A MUM of three is angry she will be forced into
hardship when the Government makes her pay for a “spare
room” when the bedroom tax kicks in. Part-time shop worker
Vicky Downey, 34, faces being stung with the tax despite
living with three daughters at her three-bed Kinmel Bay
home. The single mum will lose 14% of her housing benefit as
it is claimed she has an un-occupied room – taking £12 from
her weekly income and more than £500 over a year. This is
because her eldest daughter only lives at the property three
days a week.
The family are among thousands in Wales who will be hit when the tax comes into force in April, affecting those in social housing. Vicky said: “I am juggling my bills as it is and this will make it even more of a struggle to manage. I have to cope because I have three children and we have to have a roof over our heads, but it will be very hard. If I had still been on benefits there is no way I could afford the extra – this tax will make far more people homeless. I live at the house with my children George, six, and Tyler, eight, and my eldest Charley lives here three days a week and at my mum’s for the other days. They say that as George and Tyler are a similar age they can share a room and don’t take Charley into consideration – they want to increase my rent by saying her room is not occupied. I would have to move to a two bed property but there are no spare properties in this area to move to. I understand them bringing this rule in for a single person living alone in a large home but feel it is unfair that we are being hit. There will be many others in a similar situation.”
(39) An angry mum of two soldiers last night laid into Tory
Mark Francois for shrugging off bedroom tax complaints by military
personnel. Alison Huggan blasted the Defence Minister’s claim that
most serving staff won’t be hit as they live in barracks. But the
48-year-old said she would have to find an extra £25 for the
“spare” rooms twin sons Aaron and Anas El Hamri would leave behind
while off fighting the Taliban.
Alison, of Middlesbrough, said: “These out of touch Tories make my blood boil. How dare they dismiss the huge cut forces families will face due to the bedroom tax? My sons are defending the country, the least they deserve is a bed to come home to. David Cameron should be ashamed.”
Alison is prepared to move to a two-bed house so her sons can share a room when home. But she would still have to find £14 a week more.
Labour’s Liam Byrne said: “No wonder this Government is in crisis, they are so incompetent they think hammering soldiers protecting our country isn’t a problem. If you serve in the forces you should be rewarded, not punished.” Mr Francois had told ministers this week: “Few if any full-time personnel will be affected by the new policy as the overwhelming majority will be living in service accommodation.”
(40) A disabled Scot has told of her fears that Coalition benefit
cuts will force her from her home. Wheelchair-bound Janice
Martin, 50, from Old Monklands in Coatbridge, told her MP Tom
Clarke: “I feel suicidal about this bedroom tax”. Janice told
the Record: “I know it sounds dramatic but the stress means
that I am not sleeping. It is a case of heating or eating at
the moment and the thought of this new tax coming in, I just
can’t see a way out of it. I have an appointment with my GP
tomorrow to see how this is affecting my mental health. There
must be thousands of others in the same position.”
Jancice has osteoporosis and has had her three-bedroom council house adapted to her needs. She said: “I have carers staying overnight from time to time and my daughters have to come and look after me some weekends.” She asked for a transfer some years ago but North Lanarkshire Council had nothing available.
(41) Mr and Mrs Goodwin, 59, of Blackwood, near Caerphilly, Wales have two Labrador guide dogs and rely on family and neighbours for care.Yet they face paying an extra £1,000 a year for the three-bedroom home they have lived in for 26 years. But like so many of the 660,000 people hit with bedroom tax from April 1st, there is nowhere to go. Caerphilly MP Mr David says the local authority hasn’t anything smaller and suitable. Mr Goodwin added: “We’ll have to find the money by cutting back on food and heat.”
(42) A man who gave up work to care for his sick wife is
"disgusted" at the so-called "bedroom tax" which may see him
lose £60 a month in housing benefit. Tony Sharman, 60, of
Towcester, sleeps in a second bedroom in their home as his
wife Anne, 57, has in a special bed which is too small for
them both. But changes to housing benefit will penalise people
with a "spare bedroom". Mr Sharman, who started caring for his
wife after a second brain haemorrhage in 2006 left her unable
to walk or speak, has been told that under the proposals he
will lose about £15 a week.
"We genuinely need separate bedrooms," he said. "But they say I'm a husband, not a carer. I look after my wife 24 hours a day, seven days a week." He said he struggles to "make ends meet" at present and the extra loss of benefit will mean he has to cut his food bill. He said he would be applying to the discretionary fund to help people in hardship.
(43) Wheelchair user Steve Cooper, of Wellingborough, lives in a two bedroom house that has been specially adapted for his use. He is concerned that he will be penalised by these changes to the housing benefit. "I think it is unfair with the all the work the housing people have done to adapt my house. If I move they will have to do it all again," he said.
(44) A disabled man with kidney failure says he faces losing his
home of 30 years after being forced to fork out extra for his
spare bedrooms, which he uses for his dialysis equipment.
Bryan Tudor, of Kidderminster, is a victim of the new Welfare Reform Act, in which unused bedrooms in social housing will be subject to an under-occupation charge or “bedroom tax”, from
April. Mr Tudor, 60, who lives in a threebedroom community housing property with his carer wife Elaine, 58, said he would have to pay an extra £100 a month for the rooms or move to a
one-bedroom bungalow, without room for his dialysis machine.
The couple have to sleep in separate rooms, as Mr Tudor’s bedroom has the dialysis machine in it, while the spare room houses all the supplies required for the treatment. “We can’t sleep in a
one-bedroom bungalow because the dialysis equipment takes up most of the room,” said Mr Tudor, who has to have dialysis three times a week. “The spare bedroom is absolutely packed solid
and my wife sleeps in the third bedroom because there’s not enough room for a double bed in mine. We can’t afford the extra £100 a month. We’ve got no choice but to stay because I’ve got
the kidney machine. We want help to pay for it or something to be done about it. Being told after 30 years that we could be forced to move is a big shock.”
He added if they moved to a bungalow he would have to travel to Russells Hall Hospital, Dudley, to have his dialysis. “It would cost us a fortune going backwards and forwards,” Mr Tudor
said. “The dialysis machine is a godsend and saves me a lot of time travelling to the hospital. There must be something that can be done to help us stay here.”
(45) After suffering a stroke and being diagnosed with a
life-threatening medical condition, former shipyard worker Alex
Pattison thought he had seen it all. But a letter suggesting that
he and his wife Susan should move out of what has been their home
for nearly 20 years was the last straw.
The couple, who live in Exton Close, Bransholme, are among 4,700 households in the city facing upheaval because of the so-called "bedroom tax". Their weekly benefit, which goes towards their rent, is being cut by £13 because under the new rules they are judged to be under-occupying their two-bedroom council house.
Mr Pattison, 58, who suffers from Addison's disease – which often leaves him feeling weak – sleeps in the spare room because of his disabilities. However, the new reforms take no account of married couples sleeping in different bedrooms. He said: "I don't want to move anywhere else. This is our home."
His wife Susan, 55, said: "I am Alex's full-time carer and we both need separate bedrooms just have a break from each other. It's hard enough to keep things on the straight and narrow with all of Alex's health problems without having to worry about where we are going to find the money to cover this. Sometimes it feels like I'm standing on the Titanic. It's just a question of how long will it be before we start sinking. Like anyone else, I pay my bills and make sure there is food on the table but it's getting the point where you start wondering whether to start cutting back on food to pay for the extra rent.
Mrs Pattison said she saw no sense in moving to a one-bedroom council property where a large number of costly adaptations would be required before her husband could move in."
(46) A mum of two from Peterborough is bracing herself to become
one of the first victims of the Government’s so-called ‘bedroom
Jane Clarke (42), of Chestnut Avenue, Dogsthorpe, is set to lose out by £15 a week under the changes to housing benefit, due to come into effect from 1st April. Mrs Clarke, a freelance hairdresser, lives with her sons aged 15 and 11 in a three-bedroom property, but will be penalised until her eldest son’s next birthday. Under the legislation children of the same sex aged 16 or under are expected to share a room. It means Mrs Clarke is deemed to need just two bedrooms and will have her housing benefit cut to reflect this new fact. This is despite her 15-year-old being 6ft 5ins tall and needing a king size bed to comfortably sleep at night.
To add insult to injury, Mrs Clarke said she was not allowed to bid for a two-bedroom house when she went to Peterborough City Council for help to find a home for herself and her children two years ago. She said: “I was told I couldn’t have one, that I wasn’t allowed. I had to apply for a three-bedroom property. I’m now being told I’m under occupied. How many people have they told ‘you have to have a three-bedroom house’ and are now going to get charged for the privilege.”
Mrs Clarke says she is merely going to suffer the additional costs until her eldest son’s birthday in January.
She said: “Luckily, it’s not going to affect me for too long. It’s the principle I’m annoyed about.”
(47) Kristina Dwyer, has been told that because her twins have
separate bedrooms she will have to pay £11 a week towards her
“The first I knew about all of this was when a letter arrived,” explains the 25-year-old mum of two from Bootle. It said I had three options – find the extra money each week myself, get a lodger in or move. I can’t imagine any parent wanting a stranger to move in with their children. You read all the time about how vulnerable children are. I’d never forgive myself if anything happened to them so that just isn’t an option.”
Over five years, Kristina has made their three-bedroom house into a cosy home. The twins’ bedrooms – two tiny box rooms big enough for a single bed and a bookshelf – are painted pink and blue and decorated with cartoon characters. Kristina’s room is opposite, and downstairs there’s a kitchen and a living room. Outside there is a small garden. “Ruby cried when I told her she might have to give up her bedroom,” says Kristina. “Even as young as they are, there isn’t room for the two of them in either bedroom. I could put bunk beds in, but it would block either the window or the door. Then, when they turn 10, I’d have to give them their own rooms again anyway – that’s the law when you have a boy and a girl. Moving isn’t an option. I’ve been told there’s at least a five- year waiting list for a two- bedroom property in this area with Liverpool Mutual Homes. It took me long enough to get this place, and I only got it because it needed a lot of work doing. Now we’re really happy with it and the Government wants to take it off us.”
Kristina, who had to give up work after having her twins Zac and Ruby five years ago, says there is simply no spare money in the kitty to pay for the reduction in her Housing Benefit: “Every penny that comes in is already accounted for,” she says. “I worked up until the week they were born. Ever since I’ve been looking for another job, but it’s been difficult because a lot of places are wary of taking you on if you have pre-school age children. I’m just about to start a course training to be a legal secretary. I want to be able to work and provide for my kids. But, on benefits, £11 a week is a lot. It’s the difference between eating and not eating.”
(48) A Cornishman who gave up work to care for his disabled mum
claims a new bedroom tax could leave him homeless. David
Mitchell from Camborne said: "David Cameron seems to think
you're unemployed, you're living in a council house or social
housing, you're lazy and because you're getting benefits that's
even worse. It's not my fault I can't get a job. It's not for
trying. If it goes on for much longer the stress will be
terrible. How much longer can I stay here? I shall get into
debt because obviously the housing people want their rent.
That's something I'll have to sort out."
(49) MARION Khan loves to look after her two young
grandchildren each weekend. But 59-year-old Mrs Khan said
she might have this enjoyment stripped away from her when
the so-called "bedroom tax" is introduced in April. She
faces being moved from her two-bed house in Woodborough
Road, Easton, because she is judged to have a spare bedroom.
If she is moved to a one-bed home, then she would be denied
the chance to look after her grandchildren at weekends. If
she stays, then the £200 she receives in benefit each month
will be cut by £50.
"I love living there," she said. "It's a quiet street and I have got lovely neighbours. I don't want to move."
(50) Kim Hey, 39, faces losing £14 a week of £98 she gets to rent a
house on Devon Grove, Ossett, where she lives with Luke, 10,
Chloe-Rose, 3, and baby Jack, 1.
Mrs Hey, whose husband Darren was made redundant last year, said: “You can imagine how little money we have coming in. I don’t know what to do. I have to buy shoes, clothes, nappies. Obviously it’s going to affect us. I’m disgusted.”
(51) Goole resident Adrian Hill has slammed the government’s
controversial ‘bedroom tax’ after he was told it will cost him an
extra £44 per month. The controversial tax is set to be
implemented this April and will penalise those living in social
housing deemed to have a spare bedroom. The penalties will mean
either a cut in benefits or tenants being asked to downsize.
Adrian, who lives with partner Patricia Miller in their two-bedroom flat in St Andrew’s Court, says it is another blow to those living on benefits. He said: “It’s not fair what this coalition is doing. I challenge them to do what we do, and live off the amount of money we have to. It just seems like they are hitting the poorer all the time. I was told that it will cost me £11 extra a week. We’re struggling now so I don’t know what it will be like when this comes in.” Adrian, who is classed as disabled, was told that a doctor’s note would not make him eligible for exclusion from the tax.
Having lived at his current address for the past 18 years Adrian, 50, says that he will be faced with potentially downsizing to another area. He added: “I’ve lived here for 18 years and I don’t want to move. I do chores for the neighbours and like where I live so I don’t think it’s fair that I’m having to struggle even more because of the government. We’ll do what we’ve got to do to manage - what more can we do?”
Adrian’s brother Melvin, aged 61, is also likely to be affected. He lives in a two-bedroom flat in Kent Road but says he is also faced with the prospect of having to downsize. He said: “I’ve only lived here for two years so I don’t want to move again. I’ve got nice neighbours and I can’t be doing with all the upheaval involved. I run a car which I rely on to get me about so this tax is likely to mean I get less to spend on that.”
(52) Tim Kennedy, who lives with daughters Jade, 15, and
Caitlyn, 11, on Sunnyhill Crescent, Wrenthorpe, will lose
money after being told his daughters must share a room. Mr
Kennedy, who gave up work to look after them said: “We’ll
have to cut down on the amount and the quality of the food
we eat. This is just a tax on the poorest.”
(53) The Goodwins from Blackwood are just one of the many
families facing upheaval under new “bedroom tax” laws.
The couple, both aged 59, have lived at their home in Bevan Crescent for 26 years. It’s a three-bedroom house, modest in size and even more modestly sized bedrooms, but it means the couple are set to lose a chunk of their income from April 1. Under-occupancy by two bedrooms will see the couple have 25% deducted from their income, amounting to around £1,000 per year. But what the new benefit regulations regarding the under-occupancy will not take into account is the fact Derrick and Jill are registered blind. And their home also houses two guide dogs, labradors Alisha and Shane.
Derrick, who worked for Remploy for 11 years, explained that the news about the “bedroom tax” hit him for six. He said: “I panicked when I heard the news, we knew nothing about it beforehand. The way in which the leaflet from Caerphilly council was written scared us, that we’d have no choice but to move.” Derrick’s sister Gwyneth Wilkins added: “We’ve been looking at their insurances to get a cheaper deal, and to be fair to the council they’ve come out and advised us about how to save money. Jill and Derrick have been given a water meter and have fixed the insulation in the attic.” Mrs Wilkins also added that because the couple are registered blind, they qualify for a council tax reduction. “But what we want to get across is they need the space for the dogs. Jill and Derrick’s bedroom is not big enough to have the two dogs permanently in there. The dogs occupy the room across the landing,” added Mrs Wilkins.
Alisha and Shane have their own bedroom where they sleep during the night, to be near Derrick and Jill or if the couple go out to their radio club. “We’d come back from going out and the dogs would have been playing in the living room and all the furniture would be moved around. It would really confuse me and Jill,” added Derek. Moving would be a terrible upheaval for both the Goodwins and their guide dogs after years of getting used to their home in Blackwood, the surrounding area and the months of intense training with the guide dogs. Mrs Wilkins, who lives five minutes away from her brother and sister-in-law, added that the garden and storage for the dog’s food are ideal at the current property. She added: “They are near friends and family here, who they rely on. They’ve had a new modified kitchen recently. It means a lot to them, they’ve lived here for 26 years.” The lack of council property and the uncertainty of private landlords is something all three are wary of. Mrs Wilkins said: “They were asked about sheltered accommodation, but they can’t have two dogs there. And private landlords often say ‘no DSS or pets’.
(54) Maureen Hagan, 58, lives in a three-bedroom property
in Grangetown, Middlesbrough, with her 18-year-old
granddaughter, whom she took in five years ago. She will now
see her housing benefit cut by 14%, even though she says she
requires the extra bedroom in order to meet standards set by
social workers, as she is fighting to bring another young
relative out of foster care and into the family home.
She feels that the welfare reform is out of sync with the rate of inflation, and calls for the government to prolong the introduction of the cuts. She spoke of her recent struggles to meet utility payments: "That was before that bedroom tax on top of everything else. What am I going to do then?" Hagan expects to face a £14 cut to her housing benefit each week – more than half her weekly shopping budget. "I can't afford to buy makeup. I'd like to buy it but I can't. I'd like to buy my own clothes; the charity shop's my clothes shop, and it has been for a number of years."
(55) Alison McAuley, a self-employed part-time house cleaner
in Skelton, east of Middlesbrough, said she would be affected
because her twin 15-year-old sons are expected to share a
bedroom until they reach the age of 16 under the new rules. She
is now torn between moving out of her family home – where she
has lived for seven years – or face a £150 penalty because she
has two bedrooms deemed unoccupied."I can't cancel my Sky
because I haven't got it, and I need my car for work. There's
nowhere else it could come from," she said. "I haven't got the
money to move."
Three years ago the McAuley family were saved from homelessness when Alison struggled to meet payments on her home after her marriage fell apart. In 2010, Coast and Country Housing bought the four-bedroom property she now rents as part of the mortgage rescue scheme introduced by the previous government, but now she has found herself worrying over the same problems she faced then. "Families are going to be split up. Pensioners are going to be left stranded when their families are forced to move away. Children are going to be split up from their fathers," she said. "There has got to be another way around it."
(56) A struggling South Tyneside couple say they are being
boxed in by the controversial ‘bedroom tax’.
Jobless Tracy and Walter Little, who live in a three-bedroom property in Hautmont Road, Hebburn, and receive employment support allowance, say they could be forced to choose between eating or heating their home, once the new benefit legislation is introduced next month. Under the new rules, they will lose £44 a month in benefit, because they have three bedrooms, as part of a crackdown on over-capacity in social housing.
Following a Facebook alert, the couple believed they would not be liable for the controversial benefit cap, because of the size of their smallest bedroom, which they call “a tiny, old-fashioned box room”. But their hopes appear to be have been dashed, after South Tyneside Homes officials said they would be hit by the benefit cut. Mrs Little, 48, said: “Under the terms of the 1985 Housing Act, section 326, we would not have been liable for bedroom tax, if the room had been less than 50sq ft. But because the room is actually 68sq ft, it looks like we will lose around £44 a month. That is a lot of money when you’re on benefit, and we could be forced to choose between buying food or heating our home. Although the room is not used as a bedroom and is only used to store our grandchildren’s toys, it is still being classed as a bedroom.”
Mr Little, 49, said: “It appears we are literally being boxed in by the new legislation. I’m sure South Tyneside Homes must have been panicking over this, because they took some time getting back to us. I believe they have been inundated with inquiries about whether people are liable for these box rooms. But even though it looks like we will be liable for our third bedroom, we would urge people to check this out and ask for a legal clarification from the housing department, if they believe their smallest bedroom should not be classed as a bedroom.”
(57) You might think the mum of this severely disabled
11-year-old boy would be relieved to be told by the Prime
Minister that she would not be affected by the bedroom tax, the
Sunday People reports. But when Fiona Oxley-Goody listened to
David Cameron saying exactly that in the House of Commons, she
was astonished and simply could not believe what she was hearing.
Fiona has received a letter ordering her to pay £60 extra a month for the home which has been specially-adapted so her son Logan can receive round-the-clock care. That £60 is simply a price she cannot afford. And if she cannot find the money, Logan may have to be parted from her and put into full-time residential care. Yet on Wednesday David Cameron insisted families like Logan’s would be exempt from the cruel charge. To the cheers of Tory MPs, he announced: “Anyone with severely disabled children is exempt from the spare room subsidy.”
But the truth is, families with disabled children ARE among the 660,000 social housing tenants to be hit with bedroom tax bills of £14 a week on April 1. The best they can hope for is help from a £30 million hardship fund. But the National Housing Federation says that’s only £2.51 a week if it was shared out among the 230,000 disabled people who need it. Fiona said: “Who is the Prime Minister listening to? Who is advising him? It’s frightening that the man who is supposed to be in charge has the wrong information.”
Logan, who has severe autism, lives with Fiona in a three-bedroom house, specially kitted out to meet his needs. They use their tiny third bedroom so a carer can come and stay three times a week, bringing much needed respite to Fiona and enabling her to be able to work. Disabled adults who need a room for an overnight carer would be exempt. But as Logan is a child, there is no exemption as the parent is considered the carer.
Fiona, of Rettendon, near Chelsmford, Essex, received the letter from her housing association before Christmas, bringing the news her housing benefit would be cut because she is “under-occupying”. She says she is already “hanging on by her fingertips” but will have to find an extra £60 a month. The alternative is to downsize, abandoning her specially-adapted home. But she fears if she has to do that, it may force her to take the heartbreaking decision to put her son into full-time residential care. And, apart from the upset, it would cost the taxpayer dearly – upto £4,000 a week, depending on the level of care.
Fiona, 44, said: “I can’t risk losing my baby. There’s no way I’m going to move. I’ll fight this whatever it takes. It’s unjust and not thought out. It has been dreamed up in an office and put through without them realising the impact. But this is people’s lives they are playing with.”
Logan is prone to self-harm and needs to be monitored 24 hours a day. If he’s left alone he hurts himself, often biting his flesh to the bone. Fiona had to leave her job as a sales manager to look after her son. Sleep deprivation meant she could no longer work full-time and now manages 16 hours a week, working in Logan’s school as a support worker, advising other families on caring for disabled youngsters. Clearly the third bedroom is essential for the carer to stay in. It’s one reason Fiona got the three-bed home and applied for a Disability Facilities Grant to pay for adaptations for Logan.
They moved to the housing association property in 2006 and Fiona has spent years making it right. Doors have been adapted, and Logan’s bedroom is fully padded so he can’t hurt himself. There are CCTV cameras on the landings and in Logan’s room. Using savings and grants, Fiona has spent around £15,000 on their semi-detached home. But she may have to pay back grants if she moves because she has been living there for less than ten years. As well as the financial cost, Fiona is worried about being forced to move from a community that helps her care for Logan. She added: “I’ve struck gold with my neighbours. They have been fantastic. You can’t put a price on things like that.”
(58) A disabled woman from Liverpool who had a special lift
shaft built through the floor of her spare room has been told
she must still pay hundreds of pounds in “bedroom tax”. Janet
Bell, from Everton, who suffers from severe epilepsy, had the
elevator installed because of the risk she might have a fit
while using the stairs. But even though housing bosses built the
£8,000 lift and shaft through the floor of her spare bedroom and
took walls and the door out, they have now told her she will
have to find up to £600 a year to cover the reduction in her
Social landlords are able to reclassify the number of bedrooms in their properties if the rooms are no longer being used as bedrooms. But if they do, they have to decrease the rent. Mrs Bell has now been told by housing association Liverpool Mutual Homes (LMH) that “it is not LMH’s policy to reclassify the property from three-bedroom to two-bedroom following the installation of the vertical lift”. The housing association said it would help her apply for discretionary housing benefit from the council or she could move into a two bedroomed property with her 15-year-old son. But the Mark Street house she is currently living is adapted to suit her needs.
Mrs Bell, 53, said “It’s a question of ‘when is a room not a room’? Surely when it’s not got a wall or a door. They’ve said they’d help me apply for discretionary benefit, but there’s no guarantee I’d get it.”
(59) A husband who cares for his disabled wife is among the
first people to be hit by the Con-Dem Government’s
controversial bedroom tax.
Peter Papworth received a demand from Highland Council this week but vows he will go to jail rather than pay. The 38-year-old lives with wife Amanda, who has multiple sclerosis, in a two-bedroom house in Inverness. But Highland Council say the couple must fork out £9.96 a week from next month as they have a spare room. He is now demanding a meeting with local Lib Dem MP Danny Alexander – a leading member of the Coalition Government behind the tax.
Peter said: “My stomach is knotted with anger. To some people it might only be £40 a month but we simply cannot afford it. This will have a devastating effect on us.”
Their housing benefit is being cut by 14 per cent under the welfare shake-up as they have a spare room. They will have to pay the council extra rent which would previously have been covered by the benefit. If Peter refuses, he could face eviction or court action by the council. Failure to co-operate with those processes could lead to arrest and a possible jail sentence.
Peter said: “It’s not right. I have no intention of paying this and I am quite prepared to go to prison. Amanda is in a wheelchair and I look after her. We can’t do anything about our situation, yet the council hit us with this.”
The couple say that downsizing to a one-bedroom property is unrealistic. Even if the council had one available, it would cost £20,000 to convert it for Amanda’s needs. The demand letter reduced Amanda to tears and the 27-year-old said: “The council wants to take what little spare change we might have away.”
(60) Libby Green, 57, who has lived in her three-bedroom,
mid-terraced home in Marks Avenue, Raffles, for 13 years, says
the property is perfect for her because it is adapted to suit
her disabilities and right next door to her son Michael, 40, and
his three children. She suffers from spina bifida, had a leg
amputated in 1996, and was diagnosed with breast cancer just a
few days before Christmas. But her landlord Riverside has
confirmed this week that she will lose around £25 a week in
housing benefit because she lives alone and has two spare
“I’ve been a single parents, brought up my two kids, and have been a council tenant for 40 years,” she said. “Before my illness, I have always worked, and I worked for the council as a support worker for 10 years. They moved me to this property 13 years ago because it suited my particular needs, and because it’s next door to my son and his family, who are my support network. When I’m ill through the night, I just knock on the wall and my boy comes round. He’s a godsend. As for my house, it’s perfect for me. I’ve got it just as I like it, and it’s been adapted for my mobility problems – I often have to use my wheelchair, so it has ramps, with everything at the right height, and I have a walk-in wet-room. Riverside say I’ll be affected by this new rule, and if I want to stay here it will mean losing around £25 in benefits every week. But I can’t live properly on the money I get now [£107 a week], and this will be an extra £100 per month. They’ve sent me an application form for a one-bedroom flat, but if I wanted to have one adapted they say I’d have to pay. I’m going to struggle to pay the extra but I can’t afford to move.”
Ms Green will be exempt from the spare room benefit cut in three years when she becomes a pensioner, but she says she would rather struggle financially than move. “I’ll just have to rely on handouts from my family,” she added.
(61) Disabled Donna Campbell faces moving out of her
specially-adapted home where her carer can stay when needed, or
paying an extra £80 a month to stay put.
The 42-year-old has lived in the house for eight years and paid for a walk-in shower and other adaptations to the house to make her life with arthritis and other bone conditions tolerable.
Last week she was told that she would have to find 25 per cent of the £80 a week rent to keep the three-bedroomed house in Silverdale Close, Highercroft, she took over in a swap with her sister who had lived there for 12 years.
Donna, who has to use crutches, said: “I’m shocked. I don’t want to move. My family have lived here for 20 years. I have paid thousands of pounds to put in the shower and adapt the house myself. I need a spare room for a carer to stay when my conditions are really bad and my niece and nephew often come to stay. I don’t know where they’ll put me. I can’t have a first floor flat. I cannot afford to stay but it will be a nightmare if I have to move and leave the area I know well.”
(62) Paul Whitby, 44, who has three spare bedrooms at his
six-bedroom home, has multiple sclerosis and is largely
housebound. His wife has severe arthritis and their home,
which they have lived in for nearly 13 years, meets their
needs. Four of seven of their children, however, have grown
up, and moved out, leaving the spare rooms. The couple will
now have to pay an extra £30 a week in rent and £8 a week in
council tax for the three rooms, two of which are less than 65
Former RAF electrical engineer Mr Whitby said: “We have tried to move to somewhere smaller but they haven’t been able to find us anywhere and now we are going to get penalised for being in a house that’s suitable for our needs. “What little mod-cons we can afford, such as the internet and Sky, we are going to have to give up to pay this tax, even though we are housebound. It’s money we can ill-afford. It’s amazing that our children have had the audacity to grow up and now we have to pay for that. The bedroom tax strikes me as a tax too far in this country. Surely we are taxed enough in this country.”
(63) Donna Macey is sobbing into the telephone. “I’m so sorry,”
she repeats. “I don’t know what I’m going to do. I wish I was
dead.” In her shaking hand, she is holding a letter that tells
her she needs to find £60 in bedroom tax by April 1, or she will
face eviction. “This house is the only place I feel safe in my
life,” she says. "This is a cruel, nasty, vicious, horrible tax.
How can I find the money? We will be on the streets. I’m so
Donna, 55, her husband Graham, 57, and their 19-year-old daughter live in a three-bedroom council house. Donna, a former medical secretary, now has multiple disabilities and mental health problems. She and Graham have not lived as a couple since the turn of the millennium and they were legally separated three years ago. But Graham has loyally stayed on as Donna’s carer, living in the box room of the family home.
(64) A man with incurable cancer fears he will have to leave his
home of 23 years because he can't afford the Government's
"bedroom tax". Grandfather George Keen is one of thousands who
will be hit by plans to reduce housing benefit for people with
spare bedrooms when it comes into effect in April. The
59-year-old will end up forfeiting £100 a month, even though his
wife Pauline sleeps in one of the rooms considered spare at
their three-bedroomed rented home in Northside Walk, "With
having the cancer I have enough on my plate without having to
find money for this bedroom tax," said Mr Keen.
He was diagnosed with bowel cancer last year which can't be treated due to a string of other serious illnesses. He also attends Hayward House hospice, at the City Hospital. "I have had a triple heart bypass, four heart attacks, diabetes, hypertension, depression, a degenerative spine, sleep apnoea and was then diagnosed with bowel cancer last March," he said. "My wife has to sleep in a separate bedroom because I am on an oxygen machine overnight that makes a noise while it pumps, so it keeps her awake. But they don't accept that and say we have two extra bedrooms," said Mr Keen, who rents the property from a housing association. "That's my disability living allowance gone – it will be a big chunk out of it."
He fears the changes will force him out of the home where his two children were raised. "There is no way I can afford the extra money. I have asked for an exchange for a two-bedroomed property, but they are few and far between."
(65) Margaret Lewis, 60, who suffers from angina, diabetes and
arthritis, never fully recovered from the death of her 18-year-old
son Carl in the 1989 tragedy and is still seeking answers. The
subsequent death of her husband Michael in 2009 has left Ms Lewis
living alone in her three-bedroom home of 30 years, which is owned
by Knowsley Housing Trust. The street she lives on in Kirkby,
Merseyside, was renamed after her son.
As of Monday Ms Lewis will have £22 a week docked from her housing benefit because she has two spare rooms - including Carl’s former bedroom - until she turns 62 in April 2014 and becomes a pensioner. She will also be hit by £3.75 per week of council tax benefit cuts. ‘I am terrified, I don’t know how I am going to live,’ she said. ‘I can’t cut back, there’s nothing to cut back, I don’t even cook meals. It [the bedroom tax] affects your health, it adds to your depression. I think there are going to be suicides over this.’
Ms Lewis and her husband Michael had three sons, Carl, who was the oldest, Michael and David. The three sons went to Sheffield Wednesday’s Hillsborough ground to support Liverpool in the 1989 FA Cup semi-final against Nottingham Forest. Poor crowd control led to 96 fans, including Carl, being crushed to death and hundreds more being injured. Michael and David escaped after being lifted to safety by other fans. ‘The family never got over it. [My husband] Michael was never the same, he took to drink, he couldn’t cope,’ she said, adding that Michael would often go and lie in the cemetery near to Carl’s grave.
Knowsley Council in the mid-1990s changed the name of the street from Moorfields to Carl’s Way in memory of the teenager. The government says people affected by the bedroom tax can boost their income through employment, taking in a lodger or downsizing. But Ms Lewis, who is dependent on benefits, said none of these are realistic options for her. ‘I don’t go out the house, I am not really mobile,’ she added. She said her depression means she cannot live with a stranger, while she is reluctant to move from the family home, with all her memories of Carl and Michael and happier times. According to her sister, Teresa Harrison, Ms Lewis is already under intense stress because of her involvement in the fresh inquests into the Hillsborough deaths. Ms Lewis this week applied to Knowsley Council for a discretionary housing payment to help her pay her rent. Bob Taylor, chief executive of KHT, said the association will work with Ms Lewis to help her move to a smaller property or increase her income.
(66) Jimmy Daly, 50, from Stoke-on-Trent says "'These costs mean
I can't support my disabled son. I live on £71 a week. Now I've got
two taxes coming up: the bedroom tax, which is an extra 14 per cent
of my rent I have to pay – about £10 a week – plus the additional
council tax payments, around £30 a month. Then I spend around £15 a
week on diesel.
My son is 9, he has Hydrocephalus, which is water on the brain, epilepsy, cerebral palsy, he has no use of his right arm and very limited use of right leg, which means he is totally dependent on me. On top of that, he has learning difficulties. He lives with me 3 nights a week but legally his bedroom is deemed a spare room. When my son is here I have the heating on, which costs around £15 a week. Right now the heating is off, I've got three pairs of socks on, three sweatshirts, four t-shirts, and my fingers are still cold. I've worked for 10 of the last 11 years, paid taxes. After being laid off from teaching horticulture, next week I'm starting work as a seasonal gardener with the council.
When I hear the Government talk about the poor being scroungers I think they've lost the plot. Social welfare is there for people who fall on hard times. I don't drink, smoke or do drugs. It's a safeguard so you don't starve and get cold and so you can support your family. Iain Duncan-Smith says he could live on £53 a week. Anybody can live on £53 for one week. I challenge him to do it for months on end, and then you know what it's really like"
(67) Janet Mandeville, 50, from Truro: "Iain Duncan Smith
probably spends £53 in one shop' It is mad that they are
punishing people for having extra [bedroom] space but offering
no suitable alternatives. I live in a two-bed bungalow, which is
wheelchair-adapted and part of a housing association. I move
with the help of walking frames. As of yesterday, the Government
wants an extra £13.22 rent a week and £26 towards council tax a
month, from me. I've been sick with worry. My best friend, who
is also my unofficial carer, lives next door. Originally, I
didn't want to move house. Now, I just want to get it over with.
I'm trying to find out whether any help is going to be offered
with the cost of moving. Are we expected to move in a
wheelbarrow? When I heard Iain Duncan Smith say he could live
off £53 a week, well, I've only just stopped laughing. Prove it.
He probably spends that in one shop. He doesn't know what he's
Some names have been changed.