Susan Donnelly dreads April’s welfare reforms, fearing they will leave her impoverished and in despair. Donnelly, 54, from east London, lives with her dog, Charlie, in a two-bedroom bungalow adapted for use by people with a disability. She has emphysema, asthma and is doubly incontinent.
She receives nearly £700 a month in income support and disability premium, plus £309 a month disability living allowance (DLA). From this she pays for the hire of a Motability car and makes a £57-a-week contribution to the care support package supplied by the local authority.
From next month however, her modest income will be squeezed even further. She will have to contribute £4 a week to council tax. Under the so-called bedroom tax she will lose £16 a week housing benefit for her second bedroom, in which she stores her drip stand, feeding tubes and wheelchair. New co-payments mean she will have to foot the £3-a-week bill for a network alarm, which alerts the authorities if she falls over at home, and £10 a week for incontinence pads.
She fears the prospect of being reassessed for DLA under reforms that kick in further down the line. If she were to lose that, she will lose her Motability car and much of her independence. Overall, she estimates that from April she will be left with about £120 a week for food, fuel bills and other basic living costs.
“I’m looking down a long dark tunnel with no light at the end. Unless they get rid of Cameron and revoke all of the cuts, I don’t think I’ll see this year out. I can’t afford to put my heating on. I don’t use my oven any more. I’m scared to run up any bills. By 7pm I’m huddled up in bed with my dog. I have a halogen heater in there which goes on at night – I can’t afford to heat the whole house.”
27th March 2013