A woman whose house has been fortified and strengthened due to a threat against her life from her ex-husband has been told by her local council that she faces losing £11.65 from her benefits or being forced to move because of her spare bedroom.
She is seeking a judicial review of the decision, and is being supported by the charity Women’s Aid.
The woman, who is in her forties and lives in the East midlands, had help from a domestic violence charity to strengthen her front and back door frames and window frames, and make the back garden more secure, due to the treat.
The ‘spare’ bedroom is used by her adult daughter, who sometimes comes to stay when her mother is unwell from anxiety, depression and post-traumatic stress.
Government ministers have said that the bedroom tax – or what David Cameron names a ‘spare room subsidy’ – will result in approximately £480 million recouped by the government from the benefits bill.
However, critics argue that not only is unreasonable to force people to move from areas where they have established social networks and support systems, many people will also be forced to downsize into the much more expensive private rental sector.
The woman taking the case, known only as Julia, told the Guardian that that if she is forced to move, she will lose the support security offered by neighbors who are aware of her situation and vulnerability – and help keep a look out.
She told the Guardian “The council have been out to measure the box room and are saying it is a third bedroom. I suffer from anxiety, depression and post-traumatic stress. When I’m sick, my grownup daughter comes over to stay with me.
“I receive £380 a fortnight for myself and my son. My outgoings already exceed my income. If I lose £11.65 a week, I will get into debt and be forced to leave. I’ve lived here for 25 years.
“This bedroom tax is not taking individuals’ situations into consideration. This is about people’s lives. Not everyone has the same story. If I have to move out I’ve been told I won’t get the security put into another property. The father of my son has threatened to kill me.”
Polly Neate, chief executive of Women’s Aid, also criticized the government in the Guardian article, emphasizing the fact that two women per week are killed by domestic violence, and forcing them to leave their homes or lose their benefits will make them even more vulnerable:
“Two women are killed every week by their partners or former partners, and the combined effect of the bedroom tax, the benefit cap and the cuts to refuges will lead many like Julia, who are currently protected, losing the vital support of specialist services.
“We urge the government to make victims of domestic violence, and the services that support them, exempt from the bedroom tax and benefits cap. We also strongly urge the council in this case to rethink it’s response.”