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  1. ITV Report

Families hit by 'bedroom tax' tell of finance fears

The government's so-called 'bedroom tax', due to come into force from April, will affect around 660,000 social housing tenants across the country.

Under the plans those living in social housing who are deemed to have a spare bedroom will be asked to downsize or face a cut in benefits. Tenants in social housing will have their benefit reduced by 14% if they have a spare bedroom, or 25% if they have two or more extra rooms.

The government says the proposals will save money and help deal with a housing shortage by encouraging people to move out of homes that are too big for them, but Labour and campaigners say the changes will hit vulnerable people the hardest.

ITV News has been highlighting the impact the changes will have on people across the UK, and many families have come forward to share their stories.

Karen and Terry Avery

Karen and Terry Avery Credit: Karen and Terry Avery

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.

Dawn Sinclair

Dawn Sinclair Credit: Dawn Sinclair

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.

Clare Curness

Clare Curness Credit: Clare Curness

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.

Andy and Carol Dobson

Andy and Carol Dobson Credit: Andy and Carol Dobson

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 severe disability.

Yvonne Crook

Yvonne Crook Credit: Yvonne Crook

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.

Mark and Mandy Sloan

Mark and Many Sloan Credit: Mark and Many Sloan

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.

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