'Bedroom tax' worries Plymouth parent of disabled children

A mother-of-three believes she could lose £76-a-month in benefits because of what is dubbed a "bedroom tax".

Carrie Southcott, 26, from Plymouth, says she needs separate rooms for her sons as two have cerebral palsy.

The government's new social housing policy means she will be financially penalised as it requires the boys to share a room until they are 16.

It states: "It's only right that we bring fairness back to the system and make better use of the housing stock."

'It's discrimination'

Under the Welfare Reform Act, due to be brought in next April, each person or couple in a household is allowed a bedroom, with children under 16 of the same gender and children under 10, regardless of gender, expected to share.

Any household deemed to have more bedrooms than required will lose 14% of their housing benefit for one, or 25% for two rooms.

Miss Southcott said she needed a fourth ground-floor room built as her four-year-old son Jacob - who has cerebral palsy and relies on a feeding tube - was getting too heavy to carry upstairs.

The additional room would mean the household was classed as having two spare rooms, which will equate to £76 a month.

She said: "Essentially it's discrimination because we have children with disabilities.

"We have no choice over the matter. We can't up and leave, we can't move out, we're going to have to find the money from somewhere.

"We would like [the government] to re-think and possibly add a clause into the new legislation which prevents the families of disabled children from being penalised for having extra bedrooms that they need," she said.

'Seeking clarification'

In a statement, the Department for Work and Pensions, said: "It's not fair for people to continue to live in homes that are too large for their needs.

"From April 2013, tenants and landlords will have to consider the type of accommodation based on what tenants could afford if they were not receiving housing benefit, or if they were living in the private sector."

However, it added it was providing £30m a year to help disabled people with an adapted property and foster carers.

According to the National Housing Federation, 30,000 households in the South West, or 28% of those living in social housing in the region, would be affected by the legislation.

Miss Southcott's landlord, Plymouth Community Homes (PCH), said it was "still trying to seek clarification on the government's 'bedroom tax' proposals".

"We understand there may be occasions when tenants can appeal against a housing benefit assessment," it said.

"Ms Southcott would need to speak to Plymouth City Council's housing benefit team to discuss her circumstances."

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