A DEVOTED dad fears he will not be able to have regular overnight access to his children when the controversial bedroom tax comes into force.
Town man Graham Chapman looks forward to every weekend and school holiday when his 13-year-old son Jake and daughter Casey, 11, come to stay with him.
But Graham, who lives in a three-bedroomed house in Owton Manor and has a room for each of the children, says he will not be able to afford to see his youngsters as regularly as he is faced with cuts to his benefits after the rooms were declared as “surplus”.
Graham, 52, a former asbestos stripper and landscape gardener, survives on £120 a week disability benefit and says “every penny counts”.
He said the cut to his housing benefit of around £30 a month, means he cannot afford to make the 40-mile round trip to Darlington every week to collect Jake and Casey.
The children live with their mum after she and Graham split up around seven years ago.
The Housing Hartlepool tenant said: “It is going to prevent me having my children every week, I won’t be able to afford it.
“They are not surplus bedrooms because my children come every weekend without fail and stay there.
“I won’t be able to afford to go and pick them up, and then pay the bedroom tax and housing benefit.
“It is going to be impossible. Instead of every week it is going to be possibly every three weeks when I see them, it depends how much the tax is.
“I need the car to pick them up, the bus would cost more than the petrol. I’m in a no win situation.”
From April, the Government will introduce the cut in benefits for anyone with spare bedrooms in social housing.
Spare rooms include those used by children whose main home is elsewhere.
Households deemed to have one surplus bedroom will have the level of rent used to assess their housing benefit cut by 14 per cent.
That will rise to 25 per cent for people like Graham, who have two “spare” bedrooms.
“This bedroom tax will stop people seeing their children,” he added.
“It’s worse than mean.
“The Government give you money with one hand and take it away with the other.
“You are living beyond the poverty line to start with. It can’t be right.”
Graham added even if he could move into a two-bedroom house, the changes would prevent Jake and Casey from sharing a room because they are different sexes.
Prime Minister David Cameron recently defended the changes in Parliament saying they were part of efforts to reduce the Government’s £23bn housing benefit bill.
He questioned why people in social housing should receive extra money for having spare bedrooms when those in private rented accomodation do not.
Cath Purdy, Housing Hartlepool group chief executive, said: “The changes which will impact on Mr Chapman are being introduced by the Government.
“We are aware that Hartlepool Borough Council will have a limited discretionary Housing Benefit Fund to which Mr Chapman could apply.
“Housing Hartlepool will offer support and advice to him and many tenants who will be affected by this reduction in benefit.
“It will be a very difficult and challenging time for individuals and families, and we will assist where we can.”