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 and move to Melksham.

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

Mrs Jackson receives £270 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 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. 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 need to be near and can’t move like we have. I feel sorry for them.”

Mr and Mrs Jackson plan to move to Melksham on April 6. 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 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.”