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Carer criticises housing benefit cut

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 bed”.

The government claims it is unfair for people to live in council-run homes that are too big for their needs.The new rules will affect housing benefit, which is paid to less well-off tenants to help with rent. Typically claimants receive between £50 and £100 a week.But from April families deemed to have too much living space by their local authorities will receive a reduced payment. Under the government’s so-called “size criteria”, families will be assessed for the number of bedrooms they actually need.

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.

Genuine need’

“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.

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.

‘Waiting lists’

“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.

The Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) argued the changes will help cut the £23bn annual bill for housing benefit, free up more living space for overcrowded families, and encourage people to get jobs.

A DWP spokesman said: “It’s not fair for people to continue to live in homes that are too large for their needs when in England alone there are about five million people on social housing waiting lists and over a quarter of a million tenants are living in overcrowded conditions.

“We are giving local authorities an extra £155m this year so that they can help their vulnerable tenants through the housing benefit reform and a further £30m a year will be targeted to disabled people with an adapted property and foster carers.”

Councillor Ian McCord, portfolio holder for resources at South Northamptonshire Council, which covers Towcester, said: “We are sympathetic to Mr and Mrs Sharman’s situation and will do everything we can to help and support them.

“Although there are some exceptions to the new regulations which have been set by central government, including those for disabled tenants with a non-resident carers, unfortunately in the case of the Sharman’s these do not apply.”

A Wellingborough Council spokeswoman said anyone with concerns about housing benefit should contact them as soon as possible.She added that a hardship fund could help some of those affected but it would not cover all the cuts in housing benefit in the borough.

Story taken from BBC 

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