A DISABLED grandmother said she has been told to sell off her meagre possessions to survive after being hammered under the looming Bedroom Tax.
Val Walton, 61, is already struggling to make ends meet on her £101-per-week incapacity benefit. But from April she will have to find an extra £18.94 each week because she has two rooms spare in the three-bedroomed council house she has lived in for 32 years.
She sais she was left reeling when a social housing officer from East Durham Homes visited and suggested she find items in her house to sell to raise the extra cash needed.
East Durham Homes said it is carrying out visits to give out advice before the changes.
Val said: “I told her to have a look around at the things in my house and decide for herself whether any of it was worth anything.
“My living room carpet is over 30 years old and the ones on the stairs and in the hall were given to me by neighbours who were throwing them out.
“Most of my furniture is from Freecycle, it’s just unwanted stuff that people were giving away.That’s the only way I’ve been able to furnish my home, everything is second hand.
“The idea that I have things that I can sell-off to pay this extra money I’m suddenly going to have to find is almost laughable.”
Val moved into the house in 1980 with her late husband, Allan, and their three children Debbie, now 40, David, now 37 and Allan, who suffered cerebral palsy and died aged 20 in 2004.
The elder children married and moved away and following the death of her husband and younger son, Val was left living alone.
She was unable to work due to crippling osteoarthritis but on September 6 this year will be eligible to pick up her old age pension.
Under the Government’s rules only people of working age have to pay the bedroom tax – but it is introduced in April, which means Val will have to find the extra cash for six months, a total of £454.
As previously reported in the Mail, the family of town cancer victim Becky Bell will also fall foul of the new legislation as her bedroom is now classed as “empty” following the tragic death of the seven-year-old.
Val added: “After I’ve paid my rent and bills I’m left with a very small amount to spend on food. It means I go to Asda at around 5pm each night which is the time that the cut-price food is put on the shelves.
“I know if I go at the same time I have a bigger selection of items that have been reduced. That’s the only way I can afford to eat. I also got into debt when my son died and I’m still paying off his funeral a little each week which reduces my weekly income further still.”
David Cameron’s welfare reforms will cut the amount of benefit that people can get if they are deemed to have one or more spare bedrooms in their council or housing association home. But with a shortage of smaller properties available, it means some of the most deprived people in society are facing unmanageable debts they can’t escape from.
Michael Doyle, director of neighbourhood services at East Durham Homes, said: “Due to the forthcoming changes to benefits, we are proactively carrying out home visits to our customers to give them information about how welfare reform will affect them.
“We are letting customers know about the impact of the charge for under-occupation and where they can get advice and assistance to help them with the charges.
“We also provide customers with information about how to access loans via the credit union.
“It is not our intention to advise customers to sell their possessions to help pay the new charges and we are re-visiting the briefing information our staff receive to ensure this is clear.
“We know that some customers will find it difficult to meet the charge and in some instances will want to move to a smaller home to avoid being classed as under-occupied.
“Where this is the case we are helping them as much as possible.
“If customers have individual queries about how the changes might affect them we will be happy to contact them and try to help.”