Gary Hughes

“We can’t share, so ‘bedroom tax’ is unfair”

Former bus driver Gary Hughes lives in a three-bedroom bungalow in Basingstoke, Hampshire, with his wife and son. But he believes the government’s new under-occupation penalty (or ‘bedroom tax’) is hitting them unfairly by assuming that all couples can share a bedroom. He thinks it is unnecessary and the government should look elsewhere for its cuts.

“People who are on housing benefit are those who are already on a small amount of money and it is hitting them hardest.” 

Gary (57) suffers from hypothyroidism, which means his metabolism has slowed down over the 20 years he has had the condition. Because of his illness and his debilitating 24-stone frame, he has to sleep in a double bed in a separate room so he doesn’t disturb the rest of his family. His wife occupies the smallest bedroom, which is only 6’6” x 10’.

Their younger son, aged 26, still lives at home. He has three children from a broken relationship who stay at weekends at different times, so he usually shares his room with one or two of them.

Gary and his family have lived in their present bungalow for 14 months but he has been a Sovereign tenant since 1979. Now, under the new
rules introduced on 1 April, they will be assessed by their local authority as only needing two bedrooms.

As a result, Gary will be worse off by £17 a week as his Housing Benefit is cut by 14%. He does not receive any other money from the state because
his wife is in full-time employment.

Whilst Gary’s 53-year-old wife is the main earner, their son also works. He contributes £50 a week towards the bills and has also agreed to pay an
extra £5 a week to help cover the bedroom tax.

So what does Gary think of the welfare reform changes? “It is the most ridiculous thing since the introduction of the poll tax,” he says. “We have been social housing tenants since 1979. This is the first time in 34 years that we are going over the line of what the government says is a sensible amount for living.”

Despite feeling the penalty is unfair, Mr Hughes appreciates the need to keep a roof over his head. His clear message to other residents in a similar position: “Don’t avoid paying your rent. I would not ask
anyone to put their tenancy at risk.”

Sovereign is helping residents prepare for and cope with the changes resulting from welfare reform in a number of ways. These include:

  • providing general information about the changes to benefits
  • contacting any household that may be affected, helping them investigate their options and providing advice
  • offering a more flexible range of rent payment choices
  • making it easier to exchange or transfer to a smaller home
  • helping people find ways to manage their money and boost their income.

“People who are on housing benefit are those who are already on a small amount of money and it is hitting them hardest.”

“We take the welfare of our residents seriously and are making sure that we are well prepared to help you deal with the impact of welfare reform.”