Blind widow fears eviction from her home after housing benefit cut leaves her in arrears

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A BLIND widow who got a personal apology from a council boss over a bedroom tax eviction threat has had her housing benefit cut.

Now Helen Sockell, who lost her sight aged 14, fears fresh moves to boot her out of her home.

She lost out after the Con-Dem Government closed a loophole exempting tenants from housing benefit cuts if 
they have been in their homes since the mid-1990s.

Helen’s case, revealed by the Daily Record last May, shocked Scotland.

East Ayrshire Council threatened her with eviction over arrears of £117.

She faced having to move and learn the layout of a new smaller home.

Council leader Douglas Reid visited Helen in her Kilmarnock home to apologise for the eviction threat.

At the time, the SNP councillor said: “We will get officers to try to maximise her benefits as I don’t think she was claiming enough.”

But Helen’s housing benefit was slashed in March and her arrears stand at £97.27.

Helen said: “When the Record told my story then the council leader came to apologise, I thought that would be the end of it.

“My big fear now is that because I cannot afford to make up the shortfall, I’m going to end up with huge arrears again. The logical conclusion is that I’ll get threatened with eviction again. I feel I’m back to square one.”

Helen lived in the house with her husband John and son Andrew, who both died in 2005.

Helen added: “If I lose the house, I just won’t be able to go on. I thought this nightmare was over.

“I’ve got two extra bedrooms, just because of circumstances.”

Under a deal hammered out by the SNP Government at Holyrood and the Labour opposition, £20million is to be made available to local authorities to make up the shortfall in housing benefit - following a Daily Record campaign.

But Helen has heard nothing from East Ayrshire to this effect.

It is thought 105,000 families across Scotland have been hit with either losing benefits or moving to a smaller house, even though there are not enough one or two-bedroom homes to go round.

The council said they were looking at all options to make sure tenants don’t suffer.

Reid said: “I can assure Mrs Sockell that East Ayrshire’s SNP-led council will not enforce this cruel Tory policy.

“She will not be evicted because of the unfair bedroom tax.”