‘Spare’ room tax threat to mum of Afghanistan-bound soldier
The mother of a Coldstream Guard who will see active duty in Afghanistan this year is worried he may not have a bedroom to call his own when he comes back home.
Sian Gerrard, of Alder Gardens, criticised new rules which mean those with a ‘spare’ bedroom will see a reduction in Housing Benefit.
In Sian’s case, this will mean losing £380 per month out of the total £480 rent for her three bedroomed house. The alternative is to move to smaller accommodation.
Sian has two sons who each had their own room - the older one moved out and lives locally while Jack, 23, joined the army three years ago and is based in Windsor.
She said: “I have two excess bedrooms. I don’t mind them taking back the benefit for Tom’s room because he doesn’t live here, but Jack needs his room. “He gets a couple of week’s leave every now and then, and needs to be at home. “They are going to cut my benefit by 25 percent which is considerable. I think it’s shocking he is away serving his country and they are in fact penalising us for that.”
She asked: “What happens if your child comes back from Afghanistan having sustained injury? Is he to be expected to sleep on the sofa? He could come back with injuries from fighting, he could come back with no legs. What happens when a son comes home invalided out of the army and there is no room for him?” She intends to raise this with Bexhill MP Greg Barker today during open surgery, and has contacted Housing Benefit at Rother District Council.
RDC’s head of finance Robin Vennard commented: “The housing benefit size criteria rules for working age claimants in the social rented sector were created by the coalition government and at a local level we do not have discretionary powers as to how this is operated.
“Residents who find themselves struggling with these changes are advised to contact the Council as they can apply for a Discretionary Housing Payment to help towards the shortfall , however, the funds are limited so there is no guarantee that an award will be made.”
This week Bexhill MP Greg Barker told the Observer: “Whilst I understand a mother’s wish to keep a spare room for her grown up son who is serving in the armed forces, I believe that when there are 250,000 social housing tenants living in overcrowded accommodation and over two million people on waiting lists, it cannot be right for the Government to subsidise people to live in accommodation that is too big for their actual needs.
“Indeed, many ordinary people are not in a financial position to afford a spare room.
“As a nation, we have a clear moral obligation to the brave members of our armed forces and their families for the service they have rendered us and I am pleased that the Government has introduced a range of measures to ensure that our former personnel are properly cared for.”
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