HEREFORDIANS are being urged to protect themselves against government cuts to housing benefit.

New rules due to come into force in April mean working age social housing tenants who are considered to be “under-occupying” their homes may have their housing benefit reduced.

Those affected will have to pay the difference in increased payments for rent.

Nationally, it is estimated that 670,000 households face losing between 14 and 25 per cent of their housing benefit if they are currently living in a council or housing association home that is judged to have more bedrooms than they need.

Under the new rules, the following groups will be expected to use one bedroom:

  • Every adult couple.
  • A single person aged 16 or over.
  • Any two children of the same sex aged under 16.
  • Any two children of any sex aged 10 or under.
  • Any other child aged under 16.
  • A non-resident’s overnight carer.

‘I can’t face losing all these memories’ 

Sheila Cooke has lived in her four-bedroomed house in Hereford for 17 years and says the prospect of losing it is “heartbreaking”.

Sheila, 48, lost her husband, Donald, a year ago, and shares the house with her 11-year-old son, Guy.

However, she now risks losing 14 per cent of her housing benefit under the new government rules which are also being implemented by Herefordshire Housing, as she has two spare bedrooms.

She said: “It’s just so unfair. My older son Leon, 25, is temporarily staying with me just for support since my husband died. I also suffer from epilepsy, so it is good to have him around for a short time.

“My other children could also come back to stay with me at any time so I need both of the spare bedrooms.

“It’s not about the money – it’s about the history and the memories in the house that are important to me. If I lose the benefits I may not be able to pay the rent which means I would lose the house, and I won’t have that happen."