Fears have been raised in Fleetwood that many people already struggling financially will find things even tougher now that the new Bedroom Tax has come into force.
From now on, the new Government rules mean many social housing tenants will no longer get housing benefit to pay for all of their rent if their home has ‘spare bedrooms’.
As part of welfare reforms, the amount of rent used to calculate how much housing benefit people are entitled to will be cut by 14 per cent if the claimant has one extra bedroom, 25 per cent if they have two or more extra bedrooms.
Some tenants have been trying to downsize their homes to limit the amount of cash they will lose, and housing provider Regenda has revealed 94 people from Wyre have registered on a nationwide house swapper scheme.
But for those struggling to find suitable accommodation, and those reluctant to leave their family homes, their income will be cut.
Fleetwood mum-of-three Vivien Davies, who now lives alone, has downsized from a three-bedroom family house on Heathfield Road to a two-bedroom flat in the centre of town. Despite this, she is still losing out and says she wonders how some people will manage.
Vivien, 56, said: “Regenda have been brilliant in helping me move to a smaller place, but no one will win with the Bedroom Tax. If I had stayed at Heathfield Road I would have lost out more, but I am still worse off. If you take my case, I receive £87.73 a week in Job Seekers Allowance. I used to get all my rent paid for through the benefit, but not now.
“Now I have to find £12.28 a week to pay for the rent, because this is a two-bed flat and I have to pay for the extra room. If I still lived in Heathfield, that would be £24.56 taken out of my weekly allowance.
“That would be a massive amount to lose every week. How can anyone afford to lose that? By losing £12.28 I am just having to budget and make little cuts, here and there. Other people may get into debt or do without essentials.”
Another Fleetwood resident, single man David Scarfe, is refusing to downsize because he doesn’t want to leave his old family home, a three bedroom house. He said: “People won’t stand for this Bedroom Tax. The Government will have to do a U-turn.”
Already there have been protest marches across the country about the tax.
Steve Blackburn, Regenda’s Head of Housing Services, said: “We know that Welfare Reform Act is affecting a lot of our residents, and we are doing all we can to support them. We will continue to offer a range of ways to reach out and help our affected residents.”