Bedroom tax ‘traps’ mum

Leanne at home with her daughter Skye, two.
Leanne at home with her daughter Skye, two.

A Lancaster mum says she is trapped in a home she can’t afford to live in after the “bedroom tax” put her in rent arrears.

Leanne Hirst, 25, lives in a three bedroom house in Artle Close, Lancaster, with her daughter Skye, two.

She says the £2.50 a fortnight she now has left after everything comes out, including food, goes on an extra pack of nappies for her daughter.

She also has her son to stay for more than six weeks a year, meaning he is classed by the Home Office as living with her, and both her children have disabilities, so they’re not allowed to share a room.

Yet Leanne is still being charged for the “extra” room.

“It all started when the bedroom tax was introduced last April,” said Leanne, who says she can’t work due to mental health issues.

“I offered to downsize into a smaller property, but the bedroom tax has given me around £426, or three months, rent arrears on the property that I’m in.

“I’m on benefits, and the bedroom tax meant I had to pay an extra £11 a week, which is a lot for a single parent when I’ve got to feed and clothe my child.

“My rent arrears are now being paid back at £4.50 a week, which leaves me £62 a month worse off.”

Leanne said she was initially told by the council that she could take her rent arrears into a smaller property, but was then told otherwise.

The council then said she could be eligible for a discretionary housing benefit payment, but this would still not get her out of the debt.

“I’m willing to downsize,” she said.

“I’m very frustrated because both my children are disabled, and the Home Office is saying that they can’t share, so I’m being forced to pay more.

“The council is contradicting itself.

“Basically, I’m either going to end up getting evicted, or taking out a high interest loan. I don’t know what else to do. It makes me feel awful.”

A spokesman for Lancaster City Council said: “Lancaster City Council housing officers have been liaising with Ms Hirst for some time now with a view to resolving both the housing and financial issues surrounding this difficult and complex case.”