A disabled Whitwell man has mounted a High Court challenge over the ‘bedroom tax’ which could see him become homeless.
Richard Rourke, of Bakestone Moor, said he ‘simply’ cannot afford to pay the extra £26 a week when the controversial changes to housing benefit come into effect on 1st April.
The 46-year-old, who lost his severely-disabled wife Claire last July, has lived in the specially-adapted three bedroom bungalow for the past five years.
But Bolsover Council say there are no suitable smaller properties in the area for Mr Rourke and his disabled daughter Rebecca who is currently away at university.
Mr Rourke said the ‘bedroom’ tax’ will have a devastating effect on people’s quality of life.
“For the Government to target one of the most vulnerable sections of society in such a callous way is unbelievable,” he said.
“My home is all I have got. Disabled people need space. I f I have to move to a smaller place, I will have to lie in bed for most of the day. They are taking away my quality of life.”
Mr Rourke used to enjoy an active lifestyle and worked as an HGV mechanic until he was diagnosed with arthritis at the age of 36.
He soon developed other health problems, including hearing loss and sleep apnoea, and is now confined to a wheelchair.
He relies on his carer Sandy throughout the week to help him with day-to-day tasks and said he needs the extra rooms to store his mobility equipment and for Rebecca when she returns from university.
He said: “Rebecca suffers from muscular dystrophy as her mum Claire did and she needs somewhere to stay.”
“Claire and I worked really hard to make our home what it is, but what the government is doing isn’t giving me time to grieve.”
People in social housing deemed to under-occupy their homes will see their housing benefit cut by 14 or 25 per cent - an amount which Richard said he can ill afford.
“It comes to something when you have to sell your wedding ring just to pay the gas bill. Pride and dignity are things I cannot afford now,” he said.
“People think disabled people receive a lot of money but they would give up every penny to be able to work and have a normal life.”
He added: “The Government are demonising people in receipt of benefits but they are using a sledgehammer to crack a walnut.”
“If they cared about people they would not be taking money hand over fist from the disabled. I want the Government to re-think this policy.”