Disabled widower's eviction fears

Bedroom TaxDisabled widower Richard Rourke fears he will be evicted from his home over rent arrears as a result of the bedroom tax.

He was among a group of disabled people whose legal challenge over claims that the Government's so-called "bedroom tax" unlawfully discriminates against disabled people in social housing was dismissed by the High Court.

He did not make it to the the High Court in London to hear they had failed today, as he could not afford to travel from his home in Bakestone Moor, Whitwell, near Worksop, for the hearing.

After today's ruling, Mr Rourke, 46, he said: "They make us feel like scroungers and as if we are sub-human - if that was their intention then they have succeeded."

Since April 2013 Mr Rourke, a wheelchair user, has had his housing benefit reduced by 25% on the basis that he has two bedrooms spare.

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He is a council tenant and lives in a three-bedroom bungalow. His stepdaughter , a university student called Rebecca, has a rare form of muscular dystrophy which she inherited from her mother Claire who died last year.

She lives in halls of residence during term time but returns home for the full summer vacation, at holiday periods and at weekends when she can. Mr Rourke uses the third bedroom, which is a box room measuring eight feet by nine feet, to store his equipment, including a hoist for lifting him, his power chair and his shower seat.

Mr Rourke is now £251 in rent arrears and fears "it can only get worse".

He said: "Even if I paid the £251 now, it would mount up again . I just can not afford to pay the extra. I can not pay the shortfall."

Mr Rourke's only income is from benefits. He gets £83.57 a week including a discretionary housing housing payment of £7.41.

Stricken by a range of illnesses including arthritis in the spine, sciatica, sleep apnea, diabetes and progressive deafness, he is not only unable to work but has found his day-to-day living costs are increased due to his disabilities. His progressive illnesses put an end to his work as a mechanic.

His rent is £101.54 a week. Bills automatically swallow up a large part of his income. This includes about £60 a week in fuel bills which helps to keep his adapted vehicle on the road so that he can attend doctors' appointments.

"By the time I have finished paying the fuel bills there is basically nothing. I am not overstating it but there have been times in the last year where I have had to go to food banks," he said.

"If they think I have oodles of money to splash around they are sadly mistaken.

"My stepdaughter comes here. This is her home and it is where her family lives. She has nowhere else to come home to.

"The people who have made this decision can not have a clue about what it is like to live on a budget."

Of the Government he said: "What did they do this for?

"It feels like they are taking money back from the most vulnerable people that they can, people who would not be expected to fight back and can least defend themselves."

He said he has contacted the council, lawyers and his local MP to try to find a way to resolve his situation.

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