12 May 2013

‘Bedroom tax’ blamed for woman’s suicide

A woman who committed suicide left a note blaming the government’s so-called “bedroom tax” for her death, her family says.

Photo: Anti-bedroom tax protesters carrying banner on a protest march in Glasgow.

Just days before she died Stephanie Bottrill, 53, from in Solihull in the West Midlands, told neighbours she simply could not afford to live any more.

Her family told the Sunday People she was tortured about how she would afford the £20 extra a week for the two under-occupied bedrooms in her home – money she owed because of the government’s spare room subsidy policy, the so-called “bedroom tax”.

Ms Bottrill died in the early hours of 4 May after she was struck by a lorry on the M6 motorway.

In a letter to her son Steven, 27, she said: “Don’t blame yourself for me ending my life. The only people to blame are the government.”

He said: “I couldn’t believe it. She said not to blame ourselves, it was the government and what they were doing that caused her to do it.

Read more on bedroom tax: the key questions

‘Fine before bedroom tax’

“She was fine before the bedroom tax. It was dreamt up in London, by people in offices and big houses.

“They have no idea the effect it has on people like my mum.”

In the days before she died Ms Bottrill told her son she was struggling to cope, and told neighbours: “I can’t afford to live any more.”

Ms Bottrill had already packed up the belongings in her house in Meriden Drive, according to reports.

Her son said she was distraught at having to leave the home she had lived in for 18 years, where she had raised two children as a single mother.

‘She couldn’t afford to stay’

He said: “She didn’t want to go but she knew she had to. She couldn’t afford to stay. It was too hard.”

Ms Bottrill lived in her three-bedroom home on her own after her two children moved out, leaving her with a 25 per cent reduction in her housing benefit for two rooms, the newspaper said.

Solihull Council Labour group leader David Jamieson, who knows the family, said: “I’m absolutely appalled this poor lady has taken her own life because she was worried about how she would pay the bedroom tax.

“I hope the government will take notice and reconsider this policy.”

Under the spare room subsidy policy, introduced last month, benefits will be deducted from social housing tenants of working age who are found to have more bedrooms than they need.

In February, the government said there would be “no change” to its controversial housing benefit reform.

Around 660,000 social housing tenants faced a reduction in their housing benefit because they are deemed to be under-occupying their homes.

Tenants with disabilities will be subject to the penalty, unless a bedroom is used by a non-resident carer who stays overnight.