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'Bedroom tax' set to hit thousands of East Lancs families
CONTROVERSIAL ‘bedroom tax’ cuts set to hit thousands of families have been slammed as a 'shambles'.
More than 5,000 East Lancashire social housing tenants have received letters telling them they will have to find between £14 and £25 a week extra to stay in their homes from April 1 or move to smaller properties.
A total of 5,734 letters have been sent telling tenants of social housing landlords including Twin Valley Homes, Calico, Housing Pendle and Green Vale Homes that if they are a sole tenant or couple living in a two bedroomed home they will see their housing benefit cut by 14 per cent or by 25 per cent for a three-bedroomed property.
Two children of the same sex under 16 will have to share a bedroom and two children of any sex under ten will have to do the same under the government’s new under-occupancy regulations which take effect next month.
Major housing associations have expressed concern about the new rules impact on their tenants and Labour politicians have branded it an attack on the poor and vulnerable.
They fear there are not enough one and two bedroomed properties to accommodate those facing the new charges.
Work and Pensions Secretary Iain Duncan Smith has defended the changes as vital to stop tenants who don’t need them having spare rooms while other families are forced to live in cramped and overcrowded accommodation in the same towns.
In Hyndburn 608 tenants will be affected; in Rossendale 390; in Burnley 840; in Pendle 600; in Ribble Valley 136; in Blackburn with Darwen 1,900 and in Chorley 900.
The new rules apply to all households where the tenant is of working age - from 16 to 61.
The government has recently introduced a raft of exemptions including most foster carers; families with children serving in the armed forces and disabled people who need carers sleeping in every night - not those, such as our case study below, who need occasional overnight assistance.
Blackburn with Darwen Labour council leader Kate Hollern described the complex concessions being introduced at a late stage as 'a shambles'. She added: “This is affecting hundreds of residents of our borough, many disabled and many in work, who are being forced to move or find money from shrinking incomes. "It leaves separated parents - often dads - without a spare room to have their children stay overnight. It’s an attack on the poor and vulnerable."
Hyndburn and Haslingden Labour MP Graham Jones said: “I do not think the Government understands the unnecessary pain this will cause. it will cause tremendous upheaval and stress and is based on the fallacy that the properties to move people into exist at all. “There simply aren’t enough one and two bedroom homes to relocate people into.”
Mr Duncan Smith said that the government could not stand by and see hundreds of people in Lancashire towns receiving a “spare room subsidy” for houses too large for them while other families were squeezed into cramped homes.
He said: “It can’t be right that 25,000 households across the North West are living in an overcrowded home. “There’s nothing fair about making families wait and wait for a house that is big enough, while other households on benefits are allowed to live in homes that are too big for their needs, at no extra cost. “Many working families cannot afford the luxury of having spare bedrooms, and the Government cannot afford to pay for bedrooms that are not being used.”
Ian Clark, managing director of the Together Housing group, which includes Twin valley Homes in Blackburn with Darwen, Housing Pendle and Green Vale Homes in Rossendale, said: “While we can see the need to make better use of social housing stock, our concern is that with limited opportunities to downsize it will force many of our tenants to cut back on food, heating and other essentials in order to stay in their own homes.”
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.”