'Bedroom tax' reaction: Council under pressure to review case of Stephen Pound's brother

Kidney-failure suffer Rivers Pound uses his second bedroom to store his dialysis machine

Welfare campaigners have joined with politicians to call for Kensington and Chelsea Council to act over the case of kidney-failure suffer Rivers Pound.

On Tuesday The Independent revealed that Mr Pound, 55, who is the brother of Labour MP Stephen Pound and has been suffering from kidney failure for 36 years, will have to find an extra £120 a month under inflexible rules of the under-occupancy policy known as the “bedroom tax”. This despite the fact that he uses his second bedroom to store his dialysis machine.

Fiona Loud of the British Kidney Patient Association said the organisation knows of up to a dozen similar cases: “This story is sadly not unique and the issues highlighted are a source of stress and worry for those on dialysis at home, and their families.”

She added: “Patients should not be disadvantaged by the requirement to pay a 'bedroom tax' for the room their life-saving equipment and supplies occupy.”

Labour's Rachel Reeve, the shadow work and pensions secretary told The Independent: “This shocking example shows just how unfair and discriminatory the bedroom tax really is, but sadly it's just one example out of the 400,000 disabled people affected by the Tories bedroom tax.”

Richard Stein, a Partner at law firm Leigh Day which is challenging the policy in the Court of Appeal, said, “Mr Pound is hit by the double whammy of being declared fit for work by Atos - even though he is unable to work and facing a massive bill because of the bedroom tax.

In a letter to The Independent, Nick Paget-Brown, leader of the Kensington and Chelsea Council, said: ”I must take issue with Stephen Pound's claim that there is 'no wriggle room' or 'any local ability to look at this humanely.'

TUC General Secretary Frances O'Grady said: “This shocking case encapsulates everything that's cruel about the bedroom tax. It is causing huge amounts of stress and anxiety for those affected without addressing our housing shortage or saving taxpayers' money.

“While Mr Pound's situation silenced MPs in Westminster last week, the sad truth is that his story is not exceptional… It's not too late for the government to admit that whatever its original attentions, the bedroom tax is a deeply flawed policy that must stop before it causes any more needless suffering.”

Richard Stein, a Partner at law firm Leigh Day which is challenging the policy in the Court of Appeal, said, “Mr Pound is hit by the double whammy of being declared fit for work by Atos - even though he is unable to work and facing a massive bill because of the bedroom tax.

“He is hit by the double whammy of being declared fit for work by Atos - even though he is unable to work and facing a massive bill because of the bedroom tax.

A spokesman for the Council added, “On the face of it, anyone facing the circumstances described would be very likely to qualify for a discretionary housing payment. However, to-date, we have received no application from Mr Pound but we would encourage him to contact us.”

A spokesman for the Department for Work and Pension said “Paying Housing Benefit for spare rooms is simply unaffordable, but we've been clear from the outset that we would support people who might find the changes difficult. This is why we've given councils £190m in extra funding this year, some of which has been specifically targeted at disabled people living in adapted homes.”

Mr Pound's case came as new figures showed 55,000 families were affected by the bedroom tax in the capital this August.

According to government figures analysed by the National Housing Federation there were 869 households affected by the policy in Mr Pound's borough of Kensington and Chelsea, with each household losing an average of £1,065.68 a year. However was hardest hit Lambeth with 4,308 households affected and an average amount of £1,078.26.

National Housing Federation chief executive said, “The Government says discretionary housing payments will help those who cannot downsize, but there isn't anywhere near enough money to go round… the bedroom tax is trapping many people in homes they can no longer afford and where they are struggling to pay their rents. It is unfair, badly designed, and must be repealed.”

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