Simon Read: Who benefits from a cut that causes hardship?

Helen Wade got a shock on Thursday. The 48-year-old MS sufferer from Norwich got a letter informing her that her benefits were being slashed from next week. Specifically the Government was cutting the amount of money it contributed towards her mortgage payments.

"They just gave me four days' notice that the payment is being cut in half," says the former nurse, who had to give up working when her illness forced her into a wheelchair in 2004. "I have to fight for everything and this just feels like a kick in the teeth."

Helen is just one of 225,000 people affected by the change in Support for Mortgage Interest. The Department for Work and Pensions has cut the rate at which it pays the benefit from 6.08 per cent to just 3.63 per cent.

For Helen, it means the amount of help she gets with her monthly mortgage payment will fall by around £100, cash she simply hasn't got. "I live on the Government's minimum and just about get by," she says. "I can't sell up and move to a cheaper place as I won't get another mortgage. I've been on the local council's urgent list for more than a year, but they can't find a property with wheelchair access."

The future looks a little bleaker for Helen and about 115,000 other people. The DWP says the rate cut will mean about half of those benefiting will be left with less than their mortgage interest costs.

The move may sound like madness, but there is method behind it. The benefit was raised during the recession by the last Labour Government to help struggling families. But the net effect was that many ended up with the handout paying off some of the capital of their mortgage as well as the interest.

It's to stop that that the DWP has acted now, three months ahead of the January 2011 planned cutback in the benefit. The Government talks about fairness and is working on welfare reform to simplify the benefits system. But when such simplification penalises vulnerable struggling folk, you have to question the sense.

Bryan Clover, director of casework at the poverty charity Elizabeth Finn Care, points out: "Homeowners on low incomes, who are already faced with tough financial decisions on a daily basis will face further hardship with the new regulations for Support for Mortgage Interest. Many people will struggle to find the extra money to fund the shortfall in mortgage interest payments, with charities having to pick up the tab.

"The changes to regulations will impact on those people trapped with longer periods of fixed-rate mortgages at high interest levels, who are likely to be building up arrears. This is likely to result in many people losing their homes," Mr Clover warns.

As I've always understood it, the point of benefits was to reduce hardship. The sudden cut in Support for Mortgage Interest looks likely to increase hardship for many folk. And with further cuts ahead promised by the Coalition, things are only going to get worse. I just hope that we aren't all left counting the cost.

Independent Partners; request a free guide on NISAs from Hargreaves Lansdown

Alan Bennett has criticised the “repellent” reality shows which dominate our screens
tvBut he does like Stewart Lee
Life and Style
The Google Doodle celebrating the start of the first day of autumn, 2014.
Arts and Entertainment
Sheridan Smith as Cilla Black and Ed Stoppard as her manager Brian Epstein
tvCilla Episode 2 review: Grit under the glamour in part two of biopic series starring Sheridan Smith
David Moyes and Louis van Gaal
Life and Style
Vote with your wallet: the app can help shoppers feel more informed about items on sale
lifeNew app reveals political leanings of food companies
Former Governor of Alaska Sarah Palin, left, with her daughter, Bristol
newsShe's 'proud' of eldest daughter, who 'punched host in the face'
New Zealand fly-half Aaron Cruden pictured in The Zookeeper's Son on a late-night drinking session
Arts and Entertainment
Salmond told a Scottish television chat show in 2001that he would also sit in front of a mirror and say things like,
tvCelebrity Trekkies from Alex Salmond to Barack Obama
Life and Style
Carol O'Brien, whose son Rob suffered many years of depression
healthOne mother's story of how London charity Maytree helped her son with his depression
Arts and Entertainment
The cover of Dark Side of the Moon
musicCan 'The Endless River' carry on the tradition? See for yourself
Life and Style
food + drink
Rob Merrick's Lobby Journalists were playing Ed Balls' Labour Party MPs. The match is an annual event which takes place ahead of the opening of the party conference
newsRob Merrick insistes 'Ed will be hurting much more than me'
A cabin crew member photographed the devastation after one flight
A new app has been launched that enables people to have a cuddle from a stranger
voicesMaybe the new app will make it more normal to reach out to strangers
Finacial products from our partners
Property search
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

ES Rentals

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs Money & Business

    Trainee / Experienced Recruitment Consultants

    £20000 - £25000 per annum + OTE £40,000: SThree: SThree are a global FTSE 250 ...

    Trainee Recruitment Consultant - Soho

    £20000 - £25000 per annum + OTE £40000: SThree: As a Recruitment Consultant, y...

    Trainee Recruitment Consultants - Banking & Finance

    £20000 - £25000 per annum + OTE £40,000: SThree: SThree Group have been well e...

    Quantitative Risk Manager

    Up to £80000: Saxton Leigh: My client, a large commodities broker, is looking ...

    Day In a Page

    Secret politics of the weekly shop

    The politics of the weekly shop

    New app reveals political leanings of food companies
    Beam me up, Scottie!

    Beam me up, Scottie!

    Celebrity Trekkies from Alex Salmond to Barack Obama
    Beware Wet Paint: The ICA's latest ambitious exhibition

    Beware Wet Paint

    The ICA's latest ambitious exhibition
    Pink Floyd have produced some of rock's greatest ever album covers

    Pink Floyd have produced some of rock's greatest ever album covers

    Can 'The Endless River' carry on the tradition?
    Sanctuary for the suicidal

    Sanctuary for the suicidal

    One mother's story of how London charity Maytree helped her son with his depression
    A roller-coaster tale from the 'voice of a generation'

    Not That Kind of Girl:

    A roller-coaster tale from 'voice of a generation' Lena Dunham
    London is not bedlam or a cradle of vice. In fact it, as much as anywhere, deserves independence

    London is not bedlam or a cradle of vice

    In fact it, as much as anywhere, deserves independence
    Vivienne Westwood 'didn’t want' relationship with Malcolm McLaren

    Vivienne Westwood 'didn’t want' relationship with McLaren

    Designer 'felt pressured' into going out with Sex Pistols manager
    Jourdan Dunn: Model mother

    Model mother

    Jordan Dunn became one of the best-paid models in the world
    Apple still coolest brand – despite U2 PR disaster

    Apple still the coolest brand

    Despite PR disaster of free U2 album
    Scottish referendum: The Yes vote was the love that dared speak its name, but it was not to be

    Despite the result, this is the end of the status quo

    Boyd Tonkin on the fall-out from the Scottish referendum
    Manolo Blahnik: The high priest of heels talks flats, Englishness, and why he loves Mary Beard

    Manolo Blahnik: Flats, Englishness, and Mary Beard

    The shoe designer who has been dubbed 'the patron saint of the stiletto'
    The Beatles biographer reveals exclusive original manuscripts of some of the best pop songs ever written

    Scrambled eggs and LSD

    Behind The Beatles' lyrics - thanks to Hunter Davis's original manuscript copies
    'Normcore' fashion: Blending in is the new standing out in latest catwalk non-trend

    'Normcore': Blending in is the new standing out

    Just when fashion was in grave danger of running out of trends, it only went and invented the non-trend. Rebecca Gonsalves investigates
    Dance’s new leading ladies fight back: How female vocalists are now writing their own hits

    New leading ladies of dance fight back

    How female vocalists are now writing their own hits