‘Bedroom tax’ woe for disabled couple

A disabled Ilkeston couple on housing benefit say they face a stark choice next month - pay up or risked move out.

Housing association tenants Michael and Karen Huggans have a three bedroom bungalow.

But changes to welfare rules mean they are now only eligible as a couple for a one-bedroom home.

The legislation has been dubbed the ‘bedroom tax’. Ministers say it is aimed at freeing up homes for families living in crowded conditions.

If the Huggans’ want to stay in their home, they will have to contribute 25 per cent towards their rent.

Fifty-two-year-old Karen, of Holmewood Avenue, Ilkeston, said: “It’s a long story but we need separate bedrooms.

“I feel no-one will listen to our plight.

“We have both worked all our lives until recently when our respective disabilities became such that we could no longer cope and had to claim the benefits we were entitled to.

“I wonder where the bright spark who came up with this new idea lives and what their circumstances are? This is not just a tax or a new law to fix our economy - it is going to end people’s lives.”

The Welfare Reform Act changes will come into effect on April 1.

Under the new rules, couples who have to sleep apart because of medical conditions, or who have specially adapted properties, are not entitled to separate bedrooms.

If a household has one bedroom more than the rules state, their housing benefit will be reduced by 14 per cent — and 25 per cent if they have two or more bedrooms than are needed.

The Huggans, who are tenants with Long Eaton-based Three Valleys Housing, could take in a lodger and keep a portion of the rent they receive to cover their extra payments.

Karen said: “I cannot look after myself and my family let alone a lodger. How ridiculous.”

A Three Valleys Housing Association spokesman said the firm was offering financial and benefits advice and helping with mutual exchanges and transfers where smaller homes were available.