Taking action to avoid ‘bedroom tax’ cuts

Penny Farley took the difficult decision to leave the two-bedroom house that was her home for 10 years when she realised she wouldn’t be able to afford her rent once welfare reform changes came into effect. With her daughter having left home, Penny had a spare bedroom – this meant she was technically under-occupying, and would lose 14% of her housing benefit.

“I knew I couldn’t pay it, with the cost of food and everything else going up too. The decision was hard; it was my family home, and I’d really looked after the house and garden and made them my own, but I had to downsize. I also needed to get rid of personal belongings and furniture because there wouldn’t be room for it. It was very, very difficult.”

Penny had played an active role in her community, helping with the youth club, Neighbourhood Watch and Neighbourhood Action Group. She feels she’s been uprooted from a place she really belonged and contributed to. “I’ve lost that – and they’ve lost my help. I knew a lot of people; it’s a close community and leaving it was horrible. I’m really missing something.”

Penny viewed a couple of properties she found on the HomeSwapper website, then saw that Sovereign had a one-bedroom bungalow available in Steventon, Abingdon. “When they said I could downsize to it, I was relieved I wouldn’t have to pay the extra money – but reality hit. I felt so lucky to get a house, but I felt sad and frightened too.”

“Sovereign helped me so much – they gave me financial advice, and took me through each stage of the move. My Housing Officer was brilliant, doing practical things like organising the van and also giving me emotional support.”

Penny feels she’s had to start again, but is trying to look on the change positively. “It’s been physically and emotionally exhausting – like part of my life has been taken away. The new house wasn’t to the standard of my previous home, but I’ve decided to just get on with it. Everyone is lovely here, they all came to say hello. I’m deciding how to decorate my house, and planning my garden, and I’m starting up a local Neighbourhood Watch.

“I’m worried that some people are still burying their head in the sand, thinking if they ignore what’s happening nothing will change. But it will – if you can’t pay your rent, you’ll lose your property, so it’s better to choose to do something. Find out how it will affect you, and decide what’s best to do. Ask for help – it’s there if you ask.”

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.


“… if you can’t pay your
rent, you’ll lose your property, so it’s better to choose to do something.”

 “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.”