Linda Jarrell

“I’m losing sleep over losing my home”

Linda Jarrell sits in her specially adapted armchair in her lounge, her walking frame alongside her. She moved into her three-bedroom Sovereign bungalow in the Berkshire village of Mortimer in 1980. She has seen her daughter and son grow up here and leave home, and her husband pass away.

“My husband put a lot of work into this house. He adapted work surfaces for me in the kitchen and he made the garden look beautiful. This house holds so many memories,” she explains.

Mrs Jarrell is 60 and suffers from chronic rheumatoid arthritis. She uses a walking frame around the house and a wheelchair outside. The house has been adapted for Mrs Jarrell’s purposes, including a special wet room with lever taps and hand rails.

 “If I didn’t have problems, I would consider moving. But the whole house has been adapted for me. It allows me to live as independently as I can. If I moved, I would need to have exactly the same adaptations as here, and that would be expensive,” she says.

Because she does not reach pension age for another two years, Mrs Jarrell will be hit by the under-occupation penalty (or ‘bedroom tax’) - the government’s spare room subsidy, whereby social tenants deemed to have unused bedrooms will have their benefit cut.

Mrs Jarrell is considered to have two spare rooms and stands to lose £30 a week. But when her condition is particularly bad, her daughter comes to stay and uses one of the bedrooms. “It is giving me a lot of sleepless nights,” she says. “I won’t go into arrears, so I’ll have to think carefully about what I am paying out every month, and that includes medication and heating.”

Mrs Jarrell gets limited help from the NHS – she has to pay £300 a month for her carer, and £30 on the foot treatment she needs. She also has to pay for the drops she needs for an eye condition.

As well as her attachment to the home she has occupied for over three decades, Mrs Jarrell does not want to leave her community. She has good neighbours and a nearby health centre where the doctors understand her medical history.

Sovereign has been trying to assist Mrs Jarrell. Tenancy Support Adviser (TSA) Melanie Gowans has visited her to make sure she is claiming all the benefits she is entitled to and giving her advice on how to save money, for example on reducing her heating bills while still staying warm.

Melanie was one of 10 TSAs recruited to help minimise the impact of welfare reform on the housing association’s residents. “Even if Mrs Jarrell wanted to downsize, there simply aren’t enough smaller properties for all the residents affected by the bedroom tax,” Melanie explains. “This week, there were only two one-bedroom properties available in West Berkshire.”

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


“I’ve lived here for 33 years. I raised my children here and saw my husband die in this room. I don’t want to leave, it’s my home.”

 “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.”