A GRANDMOTHER with chronic arthritis is being forced to leave her specially-adapted home after she became a victim of the ‘bedroom tax’.
May Wileman is making desperate attempts to downsize from her three-bedroom council property in Larch Avenue, South Shields, before winter sets in – as she can’t afford to heat it.
Trouble began in July this year when the last of the 46-year-old’s three grown-up children left home, leaving her with partner John Cureton, 52, and her four-year-old grandson.
As she receives housing benefit, the under-occupancy charge (bedroom tax) kicked in, meaning the couple are almost £45 a month worse off as a result of an unused dining room and box room.
The cash loss has left her fearful for the future and desperate to leave her home – which has a walk-in shower and stairlift for her special needs.
Attempts to find a suitable council property have so far failed and now she has signed up with the Sutton Housing Trust in a bid to find a new home.
Miss Wileman, who has lived in the house for four years, said: “I live in a huge home with just my partner and my grandson. As a result, we are £11.22 a week worse off.
“We’re desperate to downsize and trying everything to do so.
“My partner is on Jobseekers’ Allowance, through no fault of his own, and we are really struggling.
“We need to get out of here before the winter or it will be a choice between paying the rent, heating the home and eating. It’s that bad.
“I’m managing to pay the rent at the moment, but won’t be able to if we stay here much longer. It’s so unfair on people on benefits and it’s all the government’s fault.”
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This week the Gazette revealed that almost 200 council tenants in South Tyneside have fallen into rent arrears since the so-called ‘bedroom tax’ was introduced in April this year.
Nationally, one-in-three council tenants affected by cuts to housing benefit have fallen behind on rent since the policy took effect, according to figures from the Trades Union Congress.
In South Tyneside, since March there has been an £81,000 rise in council rent arrears, with the total amount owed to the local authority now standing at £1.8m.
Miss Mileman, who is registered as a disabled tenant with South Tyneside Homes, added: “We are on the exchange list and are bidding for properties. This is a huge home and I can’t afford to heat it.
“Even now, I’m not putting the heating on during the day when my grandson is at school, and just wearing a jumper instead. I’m dreading winter. It’s horrendous.
“The option of bringing someone to live here is not appropriate for me. I have quite a few medical needs and don’t want a stranger in the house. The situation is getting desperate.”
At the Labour Party conference this week the party pledged to axe the tax if elected.
A borough council spokesman said: “South Tyneside Homes’ income team and welfare reform team are working closely with all tenants who are affected by the bedroom tax, offering budgeting advice specific to their requirements, and working in partnership with a number of bodies.”