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Mother of teenage soldiers hits out at housing benefit cuts
TWO teenage North-East soldiers will have nowhere to sleep when they return home from barracks because of housing benefit cuts, an MP has warned.
Single mum Alison Huggan brought up 18-year-old Anas and Aaron in a three-bedroom house in Coulby Newham, in Middlesbrough.
But the family - because the boys have joined the Army - has been hit by the so-called 'bedroom tax', which will slash housing benefit in cases of "under-occupancy", from next April.
Anyone deemed to have a spare bedroom will lose 14 per cent of their social housing help - or 25 per cent if they have two spare rooms - threatening Ms Huggan with a loss of nearly £1,000 a year.
Ms Huggan has spoken with her housing association about moving to a one-bedroom home, but has been told that none are likely to be available - throwing family life into turmoil.
One of the strongest criticisms of the 'bedroom tax' is that there are no smaller homes for 95,000 affected families across England, with the North-East the hardest hit area.
Ms Huggan said: "The government has made no concessions and have totally disregarded personal circumstances.
"If the government forces these changes it means that, when my sons return home after defending our country and serving its people, they will not have a bed to sleep in at their family home."
Anas has joined the Yorkshire Regiment, while Aaron is a Fusilier, based at Catterick, having recently graduated from Army Foundation College.
The issue was raised in the Commons, where Tom Blenkinsop, Labour MP for Middlesbrough South and East Cleveland, accused ministers of breaching the 'military covenant'.
Mr Blenkinsop said numerous families across his constituency would be hit by the cut, including the disabled whose homes had been altered to enable them to live there.
He told MPs: "I found Alison's, and her sons', situation particularly distressing as it wasn't too long ago that the Armed Forces Covenant was enshrined in law.
"That was meant to recognise that the whole nation has a moral obligation to members of the Armed Forces and their families and it establishes how they should expect to be treated.
"Yet the lack of consideration given to that commitment - when the bedroom tax comes into force - is shameful."
In response, Mike Penning, a Northern Ireland minister, said the "benefit structure" was being considered by the military covenant committee, which would report back before Christmas.
But a rethink on the 'bedroom tax' is unlikely. Ministers - faced with a housing benefit bill topping £21bn a year and rising - have insisted costs have to be cut.