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Grieving father hit by bedroom tax after son's death

Terry Fannon's benefits have now been cut because he has a spare room at his home following his son's death. Credit: MEN Syndication

The father of a teenager who died in a head-on collision has been hit by the bedroom tax on his dead son's room.

Thomas Hodson Fannon, who was 18, died in October 2015 when his motorbike collided with a quad bike. The rider, Sam Edge, 20, was last week jailed for causing death by dangerous driving.

Thomas Hodson Fannon died in October 2015 when his motorbike collided with a quad bike Credit: MEN Syndication

Terry Fannon's benefits have now been cut because he has a spare room at his home in Denton, Tameside.

The room still has Tom's name on the wall with photographs of him on display. It has not been touched since his death.

Thomas' room has not been touched since his death last October. Credit: MEN Syndication

The Department of Work and Pensions rules say a family should be given a year after a death before bedroom tax is imposed. The tax was introduced in 2013 as a 'spare room subsidy'. It sees housing benefits reduced when a house is 'under-occupied'.

Terry, 49, told the Manchester Evening News: “They knew my son was dead. I got a letter days after about the bedroom tax. I was in a trance afterwards I didn’t question it for a while.

“I feel sick. The room is still Tom’s, I’ve not changed it. But they said I had an extra room, it is just an extra worry. I can’t leave this house, I never can, it was Tom’s home and it’s all I have left of him.”

Julie Fannon, Tom’s aunt added: “It was disgusting, they just don’t care, they just want the money. Tom’s death is killing my brother, and this was just an extra worry.”

Although the rules are set by the DWP, they are implemented by local authorities. The Department for Work and Pensions and Tameside Council declined to comment.

But when the Manchester Evening News contacted council leader Kieran Quinn, a Tameside council spokesman admitted they had made an error.

Tameside Council is unable to comment on individual cases. They are always dealt with on a confidential basis.

The spare room subsidy, also known as the ‘bedroom tax’, is a housing benefit policy brought in by the coalition government.

Tameside council is required by law to administer the policy on behalf of the government, despite the effect it is having on families and our local communities.

The regulations around the bedroom tax are set by the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP).

Tameside council is required to apply those regulations as directed by the DWP. Where under-occupancy occurs, due to the death of a household member, a 52-week grace period is allowed before any reduction, or further reduction, in housing benefit is applied.

When the council is told of changes in their circumstances by residents the necessary adjustments are made.

Occasionally mistakes occurs. In this case a change in the amount of housing benefit reduction was made in error.

As soon as we became aware of this a correction was made. Housing benefit is now being paid at the correct rate.

Tameside council apologises for the error and any additional stress caused at an already difficult time.”

– Tameside Council

Andrew Gwynne MP for Reddish and Denton said: “This is yet another example of the awful impact of the Tories’ cruel Bedroom Tax, which I opposed and still think should be scrapped.

“The rules regarding bereavement are quite clear. I hope common sense prevails, and the money is returned in full.”

The so-called ‘bedroom tax’, also known as the under occupancy charge or penalty, came into force in 2013 as part of the Welfare Reform Act 2012.

It applies to tenants living in council-controlled or housing association properties and is a change to housing benefit entitlement. Social housing tenants receive less benefits if they are deemed to have one, or more than one, spare room.

Deductions are calculated in percentages depending on how many spare rooms are in a house, with critics claiming families are being hit by reductions of between £40 and £80 a month as children under certain ages are expected to share a room. It applies only to those of working age and there are exemptions, including foster carers and families with children in the armed forces.

Parents with disabled children who cannot share a room with their siblings are exempt.

In the case of a bereavement, housing benefit should not be reduced under the ‘bedroom tax’ for 12 months after the death. It must continue to be based on the rate assessed the day before the person died. Discretionary Housing Payment is available in a host of circumstances.