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Controversial 'bedroom tax' debate reignited after suicide

The son of a woman from Solihull who killed herself, leaving a note blaming the government for her death, has urged David Cameron to re-think the so-called bedroom tax.

Stephanie Bottrill said she was worried about how she would afford the £20 extra a week for the two spare bedrooms in her council house, money she owed because of the government's spare room subsidy.

Her son Steven said he now hoped someone would listen and make changes to the policy.

Solihull council told us Ms Bottrill bid on a number of properties and was offered the choice of two. It added that it had supported her throughout the process.

The bedroom tax or spare room subsidy brought in by the coalition has always been controversial and Mrs Bottrill's death has reignited the debate.

Our political correspondent Alison Mackenzie sent this report from Westminster.

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Neighbour calls for more support over 'bedroom tax'

A neighbour of Stephanie Bottrill has said there must be more support in place for vulnerable people affected by the "bedroom tax".

Deborah, who declined to give her full name, said local residents had raised a collection to help pay for Ms Bottrill's funeral on Saturday.

"She spoke to us over the fence and said they'd offered her three places; one was a flat which was no good to her because of her condition, one was in Shirley and wasn't near a bus stop, and another was in Alton, further away," she said.

"I think, because she loved her garden, the thought of moving away from her friends and into something like a one-bed bungalow has had that effect," Deborah added.

"We're professional people, and I understand the underlying reasons why you need the bedroom tax," she said. "But there should be support in place - like a key worker or a housing officer - to say to these people who are having to move 'are you happy? do you understand?' and to give them support."

Samaritans is available for anyone in any type of distress on 08457 90 90 90 in the UK or visit their website


Samaritans' statement on financial stress

Samaritans spokesperson Chantel Scherer-Reid of Samaritans, says:

One in six calls made to Samaritans are about financial stress, with some of these about rent or housing in particular. Although we know that worries about money or the threat of losing a home can cause stress and depression, it’s also important to understand that suicide is complex. It’s seldom the result of a single factor and likely to have several inter-related causes.

– The Samaritans

Samaritans is available for anyone struggling to cope round the clock, every single day of the year call 08457 90 90 90, email or find the details for the local branch at

– The Samaritans

Samaritans' advice on suicidal feelings

The Samaritans say:

Sometimes people get to a point where they feel they can’t cope, where it all gets too much to handle. It’s worse if people feel they are alone and can’t talk to anyone about what’s weighing on them.

Some things to look out for in others are:

Being irritable or nervous

A change in routine, like eating less or sleeping

Drinking, smoking or using more drugs than normal

Being more clumsy or accident prone

Becoming withdrawn

Losing interest in appearance or personal hygiene

Implying they would like to discuss something of importance.

Putting themselves down in a serious or jokey way, for example 'Oh, no one loves me', or 'I'm a waste of space' "

Spare room subsidy exceptions

The spare room subsidy allows one bedroom for each person or couple with the following exceptions.

Foster carers will be allowed one extra room, as long as they have fostered a child or become an approved foster carer within the last 52 weeks.

Children under 16 of the same gender are expected to share.

A disabled tenant or partner who needs a non-resident overnight carer will be allowed an extra room.

Children under 10 are expected to share, regardless of gender.

Parents with adult children in the armed forces (or reservists) who normally live with them will be able to keep the bedroom when they are deployed on operations.

Department for Work and Pensions

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