OF the 50,000 people in the North-East who will affected by the controversial bedroom tax - 31,500 are classed as disabled, new figures reveal.
Official figures obtained by the National Housing Federation shows that the disabled will be disproportionately hit by the under occupancy charge - triggering a fresh wave of protest.
It says that an estimated 50,000 low income people in the North-East will lose housing benefit or be forced to move out of their social housing when the Government introduces the bedroom tax on April 1.
In Yorkshire and the Humber 50,400 of the 80,000 affected by the bedroom tax have a disability. Last night North-East paralympian Dame Tanni Grey Thompson told The Northern Echo that the law was potentially devastating for a large number of people and said she was "very worried some of the most vulnerable will be hit."
Baroness Grey-Thompson of Eaglescliffe, who has been monitoring the progress of welfare reforms in the House of Lords added: "I get these heartbreaking letters from people" about the welfare reforms. "I dont think it has been properly thought out.and it could potentially cost more money than it saves."
Under the new system 50,000 people in the North-East will lose an average of 512 a year in housing benefit if they have one spare bedroom in their council or housing association home and 915 a year if they have two or more spare rooms.
If the Governments Discretionary Housing Payments fund was shared equally among disabled people hit by the tax they would each receive 64p a week to cover the shortfall.
Angela Lockwood, chief executive of North Star Housing Association, which owns 3,000 homes in the Tees Valley, said: "It is saying to disabled people how dare you have a spare bedroom, despite the fact you need the space for your oxygen cylinder, your wheelchair or because you have a medical condition which means your partner has to sleep in a separate bedroom."
She said it made no sense to force disabled people to move out of homes which had been specially adapted for their needs. "Apart from the cost of modifying houses again, if people move out they will have to go to the private sector and pay more rent, which will mean they receive more housing benefit."
A demonstration against the bedroom tax in Darlington town centre has been organised for Saturday March 16 by a group called Darlington People Against The Bedroom Tax A Government spokesman said:
"We need to ensure a better use of social housing when over a quarter of a million tenants are living in overcrowded homes and two million are on housing waiting lists across the country."
By Barry Nelson