Calls to abolish bedroom tax after Harold Hill mum speaks of struggle to downsize
PUBLISHED: 07:00 30 March 2015
A mother-of-two has spoken of her difficulty downsizing her property under the threat of the bedroom tax as a leading charity has called for it to be abolished.
The bedroom tax, or under-occupance penalty, is a reduction in housing benefit used when a council deems a property to have free rooms.
Campbell Robb, chief executive of the housing charity Shelter, said: “The reality is that every day families are being forced into a spiral of debt because of the bedroom tax.
“Imagine a parent desperate to find a smaller home to escape the tax but their search comes up empty, or a disabled adult who needs a room to store essential medical kit but is now being pushed out.”
Paula Anne Kelly, 39, a mum-of-two from St Neots Road, Harold Hill, has been trying to downsize to avoid the tax since her eldest daughter decided to move out two years ago.
She has twice successfully bid for a property through a council system only to be told she is not eligible for it.
She said: “The first one, they told me two days after I won it, was a four bedroom house which I don’t want anyway.”
The second property was the right size and Ms Kelly and her two-year-old were looking forward to moving in next month.
But eight weeks after winning the property she was told it had been adapted for a wheelchair and she was not eligible to live in it.
Ms Kelly had already packed up her things and pulled up her carpets to take to the new home.
She said the housing department had asked her why she had not exchanged her house with another tenant. But Ms Kelly has said her housing association property is in poor condition, putting off potential tenants.
Ms Kelly, who suffered a heart attack during her last pregnancy, has been receiving assistance from Havering Council to cover the reduction in her housing benefits the bedroom tax would cause, but this is due to end in April.
Mr Robb said: “With thousands of people already living on a financial knife-edge and unable to move, they are finding it impossible to make up the shortfall in their rent caused by this unfair policy.”
Havering Council’s cabinet member for housing and deputy leader of the council, Cllr Damian White, said: “We have been working with Ms Kelly for some time.
“We’re very sorry about this confusion and will offer Ms Kelly the first suitable property that becomes available.
“In the meantime, we have sent her a form to apply for extra support to pay her current rent.”
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