Families may have to move

HUNDREDS of Hartlepool families may be forced to leave their homes under Government plans to root-out “under-occupying” households.

Working-age people living in social rented housing which is seen as too large for their needs, may have to pack-up their belongings and leave, even if they have lived there for decades, if plans by the Department of Work and Pensions (DWP) to slash housing benefit are given the go-ahead.

The measure would hit about 50,000 people across the North-East and possibly hundreds in Hartlepool and east Durham, with each claimant expected to lose about £13 a week if the measure is introduced in 2013.

Households would see benefit slashed by up to 15 per cent for those with one “spare” room, and up to 25 per cent for two or more “spare” rooms, and would be told to “move to accommodation which better reflects the size and composition of their household” or make up the shortfall by finding income from other sources.

But the DWP admits there is a “mismatch” between properties in both the social sector and household size, suggesting many people would see a cut in their housing benefit with no prospect of being able to move to a smaller home.

Some may even have to look for a home from private landlords.

National Housing Federation Head of North Derek Long said the move risks uprooting people from the places where they have family and friends, and could lead to public money being wasted as some 108,000 households living in properties adapted for disability access are faced with moving and requiring fresh adaptations to new homes.

He said: “As a result of these changes, thousands of couples are no longer able to offer their grown-up children a room to stay in should their circumstances change, and many single parents will be pushed away from friends, relatives and support networks.”

l ARE you affected by changes to the system? Contact the Mail newsdesk on (01429) 239380.