many being forced to move house

Elizabeth Lawson, aged 29, and her daughters Charlotte, aged three, and Amelia, aged ten, of The Crescent Dunscroft.
Elizabeth Lawson, aged 29, and her daughters Charlotte, aged three, and Amelia, aged ten, of The Crescent Dunscroft.

Mum of two Elizabeth Dawson is dreading the introduction of the ‘bedroom tax’ next month.

The benefit changes mean that, after all her bills have been paid, Elizabeth will be left with just £5 a week to live on.

Elizabeth shares her rented three-bedroom home in The Crescent, Dunscroft, Amelia, ten, and Charlotte, three, who have their own bedrooms because her youngest daughter has an illness which keeps her up at night.

But this arrangement, with her young daughters having separate bedrooms, means that Elizabeth falls foul of the “under occupancy” clause of the housing benefit changes thta form part of the Welfare Reform Act.

The choice that Elizabeth - and an estimataed 5,000 other Doncaster people -is faced with is to pay more, lose £10 from her weekly housing benefit or move.

The National Housing Federation has released figures estimating that 4,822 people in Doncaster will be affected by the changes to housing benefit which are due to come in this April, which will cost each person affected an average of £728 a year.

The federation also revealed that approximately 300 properties became vacant in Doncaster in 2011/12, and given these figures it would take over 16 years to rehouse every household affected by the so-called ‘bedroom tax’.

There’s also a shortage of smaller properties to rent in Doncaster which adds to the problem.

Under the new rules Elizabeth’s daughters will be expected to share a room because they are the same sex and are both under the age of 16.

The girls have separate bedrooms because Charlotte suffers from gastroesophageal reflux disease which causes her to be sick regularly and keeps her up at night.

“It’s just not practical for the two girls to share, they’re completely different ages and with Charlotte’s illness its not fair for Amelia to share with her if she’s being ill at night, when she has to get up to go to school the next morning.”

Elizabeth explained that when all of the bills are paid she’s left with £15 to last her and her daughters the week, and because of the bedrooom tax she’ll be left with just £5 to ‘survive on.’

“It’s just not fair, how is anyone supposed to survive on that amount of money? I’m worried about what will become of us,” said Elizabeth

She added: “It’s fine for people who live in mansions to make these decisions but do they actually understand what it will be like for people like me now? It took me long enough to get this house, and now that everyone’s trying to downsize because of the bedroom tax there’s just not any two bedroom houses available.”

Elizabeth is a member of the young tenants association of St Leger Homes and said the policy was very unpopular with everyone she spoke to.

“When we were told about the bedroom tax everyone was furious. We’re all worried about how we will make ends meet now this tax is being brought in.”

Another of those affected, Claire Kendell, 35, of Abbey Road has decided to move to a smaller property- but she will still be penalised financially.

She suffers from both fibromyalgia and Aspergers, which is a form of autism that she says makes any form of disruption or change difficult.

“Even the slightest change is difficult for me because of my condition, and the stress of moving is making my fibromyalgia worse too,” said Claire.

She added: “I’m having to move my entire life to Armthorpe because of the bedroom tax which I think is completely unfair. This government is determined to attack the most vulnerable in our society to pay for an economic crisis caused by bankers.”

Claire lives with her partner in a three bedroom house and will move to a smaller two bedroom house, and says she has explained to the council that she needs to sleep in her own bedroom because of her disability but will still be forced to pay the bedroom tax.

“They’re just not prepared to give you any lee way or listen to your situation at all. They didn’t even offer me a one bedroom property. I don’t have any option but to pay it which I think is really unfair.”

Mayor Peter Davies said: “I strongly oppose this disgraceful policy from the coalition government.

“The problem for council house tenants in Doncaster is that we simply do not have the housing stock available to enable people to move to smaller properties if they have spare bedrooms. It is completely unfair that they should be financially penalised as a result.”

All three Doncaster MPs and Labour’s mayoral candidate Ros Jones also condemned the situation.

Doncaster North MP Ed Miliband said: “This unfair policy will hit working people and the most vulnerable.

“At exactly the same time as the bedroom tax comes into effect Cameron is giving thousands of millionaires a tax cut of £100,000.

“This isn’t about tough choices, it’s about the wrong choices and people in our area are paying the price.”
Sarah Marshall 

BEDROOM TAX FACT FILE. 
From next month if you live in a council property bigger than you require and claim Housing Benefit your benefit will be reduced.

If you have one bedroom more than you need, your Housing Benefit will be reduced by 14% of your rent and by 25% if you have two or bedrooms more than you need.

When working out how many bedrooms you need, the following criteria will apply:-

• One bedroom for each couple or named tenant if you are not a couple

• One bedroom for up to two dependant children under 16 of the same gender

• One bedroom for up to two dependant children under 10 regardless of gender

• One bedroom for a couple or single person aged 16 or over

• One bedroom for a non resident overnight carer to provide care to a disabled tenant or their partner

• An extra bedroom will not be allowed for those tenants whohave access to children at weekends or who have a foster child/children