Chippenham couple Alan and Samantha Jones have been forced to move out of the area because of the new bedroom tax.

Because of the new underoccupancy charge, introduced on April 1, if a tenant has a spare bedroom their housing benefit will be cut by 14 per cent every week and they will have to pay the extra money to cover the rent themselves.

It means Mr and Mrs Jackson, who are entitled to housing benefit from Wiltshire Council, would have to pay an extra £30 a week to stay in their two-bedroom home in Charter Road.

Instead the couple, who are technically under-occupying, have decided to exchange houses on HomeSwapper and move to Melksham.

Mr Jackson, age 51, worked for 32 years, mostly recently at Tesco. Now he works as a full time carer for his wife, age 34, who suffers from depression, panic anxiety and is deaf in one ear.

Mrs Jackson receives £270 of disability living allowance a month, but the couple’s bills are paid through £257 of income support a fortnight and Mr Jackson’s allowance as a carer, which is £53 a week.

At the moment, due to the cold weather, Mr Jackson is paying £60 a fortnight for heating and he said this cost along with the bedroom tax had been the final straw.

He said: “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.

“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.”
Mr and Mrs Jackson plan to move to Melksham on April 6. The move means they will miss regular contact with the network of friends they have built up in the town.

They hope that by renting a smaller one bedroom property they will save themselves the cost of bedroom tax and their heating bill will be cheaper.

Mr Jackson said: “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.”