'Bedroom tax's' impact on northern families


BBC Inside Out looks at how the bedroom tax will impact on a community in Spennymoor in County Durham

Officially it's called the 'under-occupancy charge' but critics have dubbed it the 'bedroom tax'.

The government's aim is to cut the welfare bill.

Housing benefit costs the UK taxpayer £23 billion a year.

Ministers don't think it is unreasonable to ask why the state is paying benefit to people who are renting properties bigger than they need.

From April tenants with 'spare' rooms will lose some of their benefit - around £13 week on average for one extra room.

The alternative is to move into somewhere smaller.

Impact on communities

As with all universal laws, the principle becomes tested when applied to the myriad of personal circumstances.

In anticipation of this, pensioners are exempt.

It would have been politically difficult to ask the elderly to move out of their homes as they enter their twilight years.

Sue Brannigan however isn't.

She and her husband brought up their four children in their council home in Spennymoor, County Durham.

They never claimed benefits.

Sue Brannigan Sue Brannigan is worried about the future of her council home in Spennymoor

But when her husband Peter died just over a year ago, Sue had to sign on.

As a claimant she faces losing £100 a month unless she moves. Losing her partner ultimately means losing her home.

Sue wants to downsize and agrees that a four bed home is too big for someone on her own.

What she resents is being told to do so and when.

Her children live nearby on the same Tudhoe Estate. However, there is nowhere small enough in the area for her to move in to.

She faces leaving the community, friends and family she has lived with for decades.

The local housing association estimates it has 1,400 homes that are under occupied, yet it only has four one-bedroom flats available.

'Spare' rooms

Across the North East other housing associations report similar concerns.

'Bedroom' tax - spare room rules

Model bedroom with children
  • One person or couple - one bedroom only
  • Two same-sex children - share one bedroom until aged 16
  • Two opposite-sex children - share until aged 10
  • Pensioners - exempt
  • Bereaved - exempt for 12 months

This is not what the Jacques family want to hear.

They also live on the Tudhoe estate but with a sixth child on the way, they need somewhere larger than their three-bedroomed house.

Tonight's programme also looks at the grey area of just what constitutes a spare room.

One example is of a couple who have split up and the father has his teenage son stay over on occasions.

Should the state be deciding whether or not he needs a second bedroom?

The government is adamant the changes are fair.

It insists the benefits bill is out of control and must be addressed.

But critics fear the nanny state is quite literally crossing a threshold and should be shown the door.

As always your thoughts and comments are most welcome...

Inside Out North East & Cumbria is broadcast on Monday, 11 February at 19:30 GMT. It is also available nationwide for seven days thereafter on iPlayer.

Chris Jackson Article written by Chris Jackson Chris Jackson Presenter, Inside Out, North East & Cumbria

Inside Out returns for a new series in 2015

Inside Out returns for a new series in 2015 but Chris Jackson's blog is coming to an end and he can now be found on social media.

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  • rate this

    Comment number 39.

    Simple, my wife and I could move to a much smaller home in the private sector, we'd continue to receive full benefit only at a much HIGHER rate thus costing the government more, where's the sense in that?

  • rate this

    Comment number 38.

    we both have part time jobs which take us off of the income support system but has not given us enough to pay full rent so we claim assistance via housing benefit we have arrears that we are paying off we wanted to DOWNSIZE years ago! then its go 4 2 bed. now its you can only go 4 1bed, we have our gran kids at w/end where do we put them? wot about our health we are only 56 not 66 no to oap place

  • rate this

    Comment number 37.

    I was brought up in a large 3 bed council house. We lived in it for 20yrs but when my sister and myself married and left to move into poperty of our own; my parents thought it the right thing to do to 'swap' for something smaller and move into a small 1 bed council bungalow so freeing up the larger 3 bed house for a younger couple to rent.Is'nt that the fair thing to do and make most of resources?

  • rate this

    Comment number 36.

    I agree with the idea that the state should not pay for spare bedrooms, but there needs to be a little moderation. I don't think it unreasonable that an older couple have 2 bedrooms if they no longer normally sleep in the same room. If in some areas the council has no 1 bedroom properties people should be able to move to the smallest available without loosing benefit.

  • rate this

    Comment number 35.

    I agree in principle with reductions of benefits, however this is targeting the wrong people. My mother who has just downsized due to ill health and has had to give up working is now in a flat with 2 bedrooms, which comes in handy when she is severly ill (she has MS) and one of the family stays over. Now she will pay for that priviledge. She left a 3 bedroom house, this is the smallest available.


Comments 5 of 39



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