IRIS HENDERSON is just 3ft 5ins and has specially adapted her home of 35 years to meet her health needs. But she says the Tories’ bedroom tax threatens to force her out of her house.
AT JUST 3ft 5in, Iris Henderson’s life has been one of struggle.
Born with dwarfism – or restricted growth – she has fought discrimination and prejudice all her life.
But Iris faces a new battle in the shape of the Tories’ bedroom tax, which threatens to force her out of the home where she has lived for 35 years.
The 59-year-old faces losing a quarter of her housing benefit unless she moves out of the house that has been specially adapted to ease her day-to-day life.
Under the Government’s bedroom tax, anyone with a spare room will lose 14 per cent of their housing benefit or 25 per cent if they have two spare rooms.
An estimated 100,000 Scots will suffer and charities warn that the tax will drive up rent arrears and evictions.
“What David Cameron and George Osborne have presided over is barbarity. The Conservatives are not interested in human beings, all they are interested in is number crunching.
“They want to reduce the welfare bill by whatever means. They don’t care if your life is destroyed or not. We’re just collateral damage.”
Iris lives on her own in a three-bed housing association home in Cumbernauld, near Glasgow, but her daughter Donna often stays over.
She has spent thousands on adapting the house to cater for her disability. She paid £4500 to have the appliances and units in her kitchen made lower so she can cook with ease and reach pots and pans.
“I have bought most of the things I have to make my life easier myself. I’ve never applied for any grants.”
Iris faces losing £72 a month in benefits. She said:
“I would lose a significant amount of my income and would become more housebound. I wouldn’t have the money for the small luxuries in life like going to the cinema or having a meal with my friends.
“Going into town on the train with my daughter, having lunch together and watching the buskers on Sauchiehall Street is a rare treat for me. It makes me feel part of society.
“What Cameron will do with his bedroom tax is condemn a lot of people to social isolation. He has a swinging brick for a heart.
“I voted Conservative in the 2010 general election. Cameron, who had a disabled son, said he was going to help people with disabilities and I took him at his word.
“Instead, he has saddled us with a bedroom tax. I feel enraged. He has no idea how disabled people live. I live in constant pain and have to crawl into bed at night because of my curved spine.
“If I want to buy new clothes, I have to get them specially made. Clothes companies don’t cater for my disability. It can cost £200 for a dress or £500 for a coat.
“When Donna got married, I had to pay £400 for a mother-of-the-bride dress and coat.
“Because my feet are swollen with arthritis, I also have to get shoes made. I can’t go to the sales.”
Iris’s dad was over 6ft, her mum was 5ft 7in and her older sister was 5ft 8in.
But Iris was born with a condition known as spondyloepiphyseal dysplasia.
It is the same form of restricted growth that affects celebrity actor Warwick Davis, who starred in the Harry Potter movies and BBC’s Life’s Too Short with Ricky Gervais.
“It hasn’t been an easy life. I’ve been shunned for a disability that I couldn’t help.
“I remember, when I was 18, speaking to a woman who was pregnant. When I went to touch her belly, she screamed, ‘Get your hands off, I might have a child like you.’ I was just a young lassie at the time and left in tears.
“I also remember arranging to go on a blind date and, when I turned up at the restaurant, he shouted, ‘Oh my god, how do people like you survive? People like you should be put down at birth.’
“This was despite him being a social worker and me telling him beforehand that I was 3ft 5in.”
Iris worked as a typist for British Rail from the age of 18 to 24 before her spine was damaged by her pregnancy.
Now, Iris suffers from arthritis and osteoporosis and needs crutches to walk.
Donna, who is 5ft 8in, said:
“This has been my mum’s home most of her life.
“It is also my family home. So many of my memories are tied into this house. I celebrated my 18th and 21st here and I left from here on my wedding day.
“I live nearby but, when I’m not here, my mum has neighbours she has known for years and who look out for her. If that is taken away, she will lose her support system.”