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

More than 90 years of car history are coming to an end with the abolition of the paper car-tax disc
newsThis and other facts you never knew about the paper circle - completely obsolete tomorrow
Kim Jong Un gives field guidance during his inspection of the Korean People's Army (KPA) Naval Unit 167
newsSouth Korean reports suggest rumours of a coup were unfounded
Arts and Entertainment
You could be in the Glastonbury crowd next summer if you follow our tips for bagging tickets this week
Life and Style
It is believed that historically rising rates of alcohol consumption have contributed to the increase
food + drink
Piers Morgan tells Scots they might not have to suffer living on the same island as him if they vote ‘No’ to Scottish Independence
peopleBroadcaster has a new role bringing 'the big stories that matter' to US
Life and Style
Arts and Entertainment
Kylie performs during her Kiss Me Once tour
musicReview: 26 years on from her first single, the pop princess tries just a bit too hard at London's O2
people'I’d rather have Fred and Rose West quote my characters on childcare'
Life and Style
Moves to regulate e-cigarettes and similar products as medicines come amid increasing evidence of their effectiveness
healthHuge anti-smoking campaign kicks off on Wednesday
The erotic novel Fifty Shades of Grey has already been blamed for a rise in the number of callouts to the fire brigade for people trapped in handcuffs
voicesJustine Elyot: Since Fifty Shades there's no need to be secretive about it — everyone's at it
Arts and Entertainment
A new Banksy entitled 'Art Buff' has appeared in Folkestone, Kent
Arts and Entertainment
Shia LaBeouf is one of Brad Pitt's favourite actors in the world ever, apparently
filmsAn 'eccentric' choice, certainly
footballBut the Newcastle United midfielder's news has 'left his mistress furious'
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 Recruitment Consultant - Birmingham - Real Staffing

    £18000 - £23000 per annum + Commission: SThree: Real Staffing are currently lo...

    Trust Accountant - Kent

    NEGOTIABLE: Austen Lloyd: TRUST ACCOUNTANT - KENTIf you are a Chartered Accou...

    Graduate Recruitment Consultant - 2013/14 Grads - No Exp Needed

    £18000 - £20000 per annum + OTE £30000: SThree: SThree are a global FTSE 250 b...

    Law Costs

    Highly Competitive Salary: Austen Lloyd: CITY - Law Costs Draftsperson - NICHE...

    Day In a Page

    Isis is an hour from Baghdad, the Iraq army has little chance against it, and air strikes won't help

    Isis an hour away from Baghdad -

    and with no sign of Iraq army being able to make a successful counter-attack
    Turner Prize 2014 is frustratingly timid

    Turner Prize 2014 is frustratingly timid

    The exhibition nods to rich and potentially brilliant ideas, but steps back
    Last chance to see: Half the world’s animals have disappeared over the last 40 years

    Last chance to see...

    The Earth’s animal wildlife population has halved in 40 years
    So here's why teenagers are always grumpy - and it's not what you think

    Truth behind teens' grumpiness

    Early school hours mess with their biological clocks
    Why can no one stop hackers putting celebrities' private photos online?

    Hacked photos: the third wave

    Why can no one stop hackers putting celebrities' private photos online?
    Royal Ballet star dubbed 'Charlize Theron in pointe shoes' takes on Manon

    Homegrown ballerina is on the rise

    Royal Ballet star Melissa Hamilton is about to tackle the role of Manon
    Education, eduction, education? Our growing fascination with what really goes on in school

    Education, education, education

    TV documentaries filmed in classrooms are now a genre in their own right
    It’s reasonable to negotiate with the likes of Isis, so why don’t we do it and save lives?

    It’s perfectly reasonable to negotiate with villains like Isis

    So why don’t we do it and save some lives?
    This man just ran a marathon in under 2 hours 3 minutes. Is a 2-hour race in sight?

    Is a sub-2-hour race now within sight?

    Dennis Kimetto breaks marathon record
    We shall not be moved, say Stratford's single parents fighting eviction

    Inside the E15 'occupation'

    We shall not be moved, say Stratford single parents
    Air strikes alone will fail to stop Isis

    Air strikes alone will fail to stop Isis

    Talks between all touched by the crisis in Syria and Iraq can achieve as much as the Tornadoes, says Patrick Cockburn
    Nadhim Zahawi: From a refugee on welfare to the heart of No 10

    Nadhim Zahawi: From a refugee on welfare to the heart of No 10

    The Tory MP speaks for the first time about the devastating effect of his father's bankruptcy
    Witches: A history of misogyny

    Witches: A history of misogyny

    The sexist abuse that haunts modern life is nothing new: women have been 'trolled' in art for 500 years
    Shona Rhimes interview: Meet the most powerful woman in US television

    Meet the most powerful woman in US television

    Writer and producer of shows like Grey's Anatomy, Shonda Rhimes now has her own evening of primetime TV – but she’s taking it in her stride
    'Before They Pass Away': Endangered communities photographed 'like Kate Moss'

    Endangered communities photographed 'like Kate Moss'

    Jimmy Nelson travelled the world to photograph 35 threatened tribes in an unashamedly glamorous style