Now the spiralling cost of living, alongside losing 14% of their housing benefit in April, because they are technically under occupying by one spare bedroom, means the couple are having to move. “Our heating costs average around £60 a fortnight when it’s really cold, it’s just too much, too much to cope with. That, and losing benefits because we aren’t using one bedroom under these new rules, means we can’t afford to live here.
“It’s not been easy to find a one-bed home. We would have been on a waiting list for ages if we hadn’t found a lady to exchange with on HomeSwapper. It’s been quite stressful because we knew we would be hit hard in April, so felt under pressure.”
With limited housing available in the local area, the couple have been forced to leave their community and have found a one-bed property to relocate to in Melksham. “We’ve been lucky you know. At the end of the day if you want to save the money you have to move areas because there isn’t enough housing. Friends who have kids in school, with work and family they need to be near can’t move like we have. I feel
sorry for them.
“I’m just glad we’ve managed to find somewhere but, if I’m honest, I’m worried about having to start again and how it might affect Samantha’s health. It annoys me when you hear things like ‘scrounger’ and generalisations about people on benefits. I worked hard for 32 years of my life. No one expects the worst, but we all come up against it at some point. When my wife’s health deteriorated, I had no choice but to do what was best for her.”
Sovereign is in the middle of a project to dramatically improve the heating at the Chippenham properties (which it took over recently), to help residents manage the cost of living and keep warm. Specially trained staff are also available to support residents like Alan and Samantha, who are affected by changes to welfare benefits. “Sovereign haven’t been our landlord for long but I can’t fault them, the support has been brilliant. Our Housing Officer has visited us regularly to talk to us about our heating situation and the plans to improve it. He’s calmed my wife down and
helped us with our HomeSwapper application. I would strongly recommend that anyone worried about the changes like us, speaks to someone for advice.”
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