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Relief after 'bedroom tax' news - but Norfolk mum is still angry

PUBLISHED: 10:19 10 April 2013 | UPDATED: 10:19 10 April 2013

Callie Blackwell has been sent a letter saying she will be effected by the bedroom tax - Her son Deryn has a rare cancer and needs his own room, and is unable to share with his younger brother Dylan (pictured). Picture: Matthew Usher.

Callie Blackwell has been sent a letter saying she will be effected by the bedroom tax - Her son Deryn has a rare cancer and needs his own room, and is unable to share with his younger brother Dylan (pictured). Picture: Matthew Usher.

© Archant Norfolk 2013

A Norfolk mum has hit out at the government's new "bedroom tax" branding it "rushed through and short-sighted" after being wrongly told her family would lose some of their housing benefits.

A Norfolk mum has hit out at the government’s new “bedroom tax” branding it “rushed through and short-sighted” after being wrongly told her family would lose some of their housing benefits.

Callie Blackwell is the mother of Deryn Blackwell, the 13-year-old Watton boy who is currently recovering from a bone marrow transplant after a three-year fight with leukaemia and the rare condition Langerhans Cell Sarcoma.

His could be one of hundreds of families whom local authorities have failed to contact to tell them the information telling them they would lose housing benefits because they had two children of the same sex under the age of 16 – and in effect an ‘extra’ bedroom – was wrong.

The government’s U-turn on who would be hit by the cut – specifically making some households with a disabled child exempt – was communicated to local authorities on March 12.

But Breckland District Council say they do not know who these exempt people are in the district.

It was only after the Eastern Daily Press contacted Breckland council querying the loss of £64 a month to the Blackwell family that their anxiety was alleviated.

The council responded saying they were in fact part of the exclusion.

Mrs Blackwell, who gave up her job along with her ex-forces husband three years ago to look after their son, said the change was “a massive case of back-peddling”.

She said: “It just seems rushed through and short-sighted.

“I do think there are massive issues here. It’s like they haven’t even thought about this and now someone has seen sense somewhere.”

Breckland said the excluded disabled child category was defined as “where the severity of the disability, the nature and frequency of care required during the night, and the extent and regularity of the disturbance to the sleep of the child, who would normally be required to share the bedroom, would be detrimental”.

The council told the EDP that it had been working with other agencies, such as housing, but had still been struggling to identify who had been incorrectly told they would lose money. It said people should contact the council if they thought they should not lose housing benefits.

A spokesman said: “We have no means of identifying all the households that will be affected by this new directive, so people who think they may be affected should contact the council.”

George Freeman, Conservative MP for Mid Norfolk, said it was a “clumsy” way of dealing with the benefit relief, adding that he would be speaking to Breckland Council to make sure Deryn’s family did not lose out.

Mrs Blackwell said her family only knew about the changes because she had been in contact with the media, and said she worried for other families who may not know.

Deryn is one of only six people in the world with Langerhans Cell Sarcoma, as well as leukaemia, which he developed at the age of 10.

His parents do not know how long Deryn will be in Bristol’s Royal Children’s Hospital, as he builds up his immune system back up from the zero-level it is currently at.

But when he does return home, Mrs Blackwell said sharing a room would have been impossible as Deryn had medication during the night and had poor mobility.

The family claim the Disability Living Allowance, Child Tax Credits, Child Benefit and a Carer’s Allowance.

They could claim Job Seeker’s Allowance and Income Support as well, but say they won’t take money they don’t need.

Mrs Blackwell said: “The money I get feeds my family. People like me, and other people who have disabled children, are already doing a full-time job. We are not all scroungers, some of us are really struggling.”

rosa.mcmahon@archant.co.uk

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