A FAMILY told it must now pay pay £650 a year to keep a shrine to a deceased child was last night (Tuesday, January 29) hoping the situation could be resolved.

Becky Bell, of Hartlepool, died of cancer aged just seven in January last year and since then her parents have preserved her room and kept her ashes in there.

But her parents, Julie and Mark, have now been told her bedroom is classed as a spare room and, under new Government rules, must pay £56 a month from April.

However, Mrs Bell told The Northern Echo last night she was hopeful the situation could be turned round after speaking to the authorities.

Housing Hartlepool, the housing association involved, has confirmed it is proposing a transitional discretionary fund be established to help in unusual situations like that of the Bells.

Mrs Bell said: “We’ve had a lot of support and Housing Hartlepool is looking at our case. Fingers crossed it might be sorted out.”

The 41-year-old added: “It doesn’t bear to think about them calling it a spare room, it’s Becky’s room.

The Northern Echo: Becky Bell

ROOM SHRINE: Becky Bell, who died from cancer, age seven.

“It’s not her fault she’s not here any more and to us she is still here.

“We don’t want to be different to anyone else and some people may think a year is a long time but when you have been through what we have been through it isn’t and we are still grieving.”

Under the changes, both social housing tenants in employment and those in receipt of housing benefit will be affected by the bedroom tax if they are found to be under-occupying their homes.

From April households under-occupancy will see their benefits slashed by about £13 a week for one bedroom or £22 for two bedrooms.

Mrs Bell, who is currently out of work, and Mr Bell, 37, a part-time taxi driver are Housing Hartlepool tenants and receive about £40 a week in housing benefits.

With the introduction of the bedroom tax they will need to pay £672 a year for Becky’s room.

Becky's parents visited their local MP Iain Wright to appeal for help. Mr Wright described the circumstances as “heartbreaking” and has sent a letter to the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions, Iain Duncan Smith, expressing his dismay at situation.

A spokesman for housing association, Housing Hartlepool, described the Bells’ situation as a “unique and difficult case” and expressed the association’s sympathy. He explained the association has already set up an advice service.