THE mother of two British soldiers has spoken of her outrage after learning she has to pay £100 in “bedroom tax” to keep their rooms while they serve their country.
Lisa Harrison will have to hand over more than half of her teaching assistant wage once the new rules on under-occupancy come into force in April.
Lisa is mother to Darren, 20, who has served in Afghanistan and Stephen, 16, who will start his basic training this spring after signing up to the armed forces. Ms Harrison, from North Shields, North Tyneside, is pleading that she should be given an exemption because the rooms are needed for her boys when they return from war zones.
Ms Harrison, 41, said: “We have been told there is no additional help from the council, that my rent will go up by £100 a month. Over half my wage will now be in rent.
“I was told the only option was to take in a lodger to cover the rent, but if my sons are on leave what would I say to them: that they have to sleep on the sofa? That is not going to happen. It is either that or downsize to a one-bedroom flat – but then, again, where would my boys go when they come back?
“I don’t think the Government has thought through this bedroom tax, people like me who have children who are away a lot get punished.
“They are serving their country, why should they not be allowed to have a bed when they get home? If they were men in their 30s I could understand, but Darren is just 20.” Ministers have repeatedly defended plans to reduce housing benefit if a person has spare rooms, saying the moves will encourage families to move into small properties and reduce the waiting list.
A North Tyneside Council spokesperson said: “We are working to ensure that all residents are aware of how welfare reform might affect them, and to provide help and advice where needed. As well as advice days arranged with partner agencies, letters have been sent to all those affected detailing the support available.
“The letters included information about the Discretionary Housing Payment Fund which will enable those who receive housing benefit to apply for additional help with rent costs in cases of hardship.
“The council has increased the amount of money in this fund to the maximum allowed by the Government to help deal with emergency cases.”