Wednesday, 1 October 2014

Tory Bedroom Tax eviction widow forced to sleep with COWS!

We are publishing below an article by Nick Dorman, which appeared in the Sunday People on 27 September 2014:

"A widow who is going blind was forced to live in a field with cattle after she was evicted from her home of 30 years ­because she couldn’t ­pay a £210 Bedroom Tax bill.

Carol Sutherland, 56, covered herself with a plastic sheet and hay in a ­desperate bid to keep dry and warm, writes Nick Dorman in the Sunday People. She had to dig a hole under a hedge to use as a toilet.
And her weight plunged to 6½st as she struggled to survive after being kicked out of her two-bed council flat.

The scandal is yet another example of the misery caused by a tax the Sunday People has been campaigning to have scrapped since it became law in 2012. Its latest victim Carol said: “I’d lived in my lovely flat for 30 years and even though I didn’t have much, I had a roof over my head and my dignity.

“When I was in the field I could not believe it had come to that. I cried so much I didn’t have any tears left.”
Bailiffs booted Carol out after she told a housing officer she couldn’t ­afford the £11.35-a-week spare-room penalty imposed as part of Tory Iain Duncan Smith’s welfare shake-up.

Carol had been struggling to get by on a widow’s pension of just £90 a month since a heart attack killed her husband Peter in 2001. Her rent and council tax were covered for her by public money.
But everything else – including power bills – was funded from her pitiful £3-a-day pension.

Carol’s plight meant she was eligible for further housing ­benefits and employment ­support allowance.
But she insisted she didn’t know about them because no one had ever mentioned them to her.
Carol (pictured) who gave up trying to have children after a string of miscarriages – said: “Things went pear-shaped after my husband died and I started losing my sight with cataracts.
“I just about managed on his pension without claiming ­anything else.
“When I started getting letters from the council I couldn’t read them. I asked them to send the details in bigger print – but they never did.

“So I ignored them until a housing officer turned up and told me I was in arrears with bedroom tax payments.
“I told him I couldn’t afford it and the next thing I knew the bailiffs were at the door.”
Carol, who has depression, claimed she was given an hour to pack up her possessions as the flat in Waddington, Lincs, was cleared in April.
She said: “I was in such a state I couldn’t find the only picture I have of my mum and dad.

“I had to tell the bailiffs I couldn’t afford to pay for any of my stuff to go into storage so they might as well take it all – which they did.”

She gave a neighbour her pet canary and went to stay with a friend, having lost touch with her own family.
But a week later she moved out, spent a night in a bus-shelter, then built her rudimentary camp in a cow-field. Carol said: “My friend would have lost her housing benefits if I’d carried on staying with her so I decided the field was my only solution.”

The decision was not as bizarre as it sounds because as the daughter of an agricultural labourer she had grown up on a farm helping with animals as well as planting and picking crops.
Recalling her time living rough, Carol said: “I’d walk round the village by day and at night I’d go to the field and bed down under the plastic.

“When I needed the loo I’d dig a hole in a hedgerow and I didn’t bother combing my hair or washing.” She added: “You don’t think it’s mad when you’re as low as I was then.”

Carol was finally rescued by worried Waddington friends who took her to the church of St Mary-le-Wigford in nearby Lincoln, the base of a charity helping the vulnerable.

City councillor Jackie Kirk, who helps to run the project, found Carol a bed at a shelter for the homeless.
Jackie said: “Carol is a remarkably brave woman. She worked all her life and after her husband died she was eligible for Employment Support Allowance and Discretionary Housing Payments. “

But as many vulnerable people discover too late, if you don’t know you’re entitled and don’t ­apply you end up as a victim of the system.”

And Carol said: “I’d like David Cameron to spend a day with me so he could see the impact his government’s Bedroom Tax has on people like me who already live below the poverty line."

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