Theresa May has taken a break from her holidays to axe the benefits of 124,000 people

Theresa May Welfare
Steve Topple

Theresa May is supposed to be on her holidays. But while parliament is on summer recess, the government has quietly axed benefits for 124,000 people. And not only will unemployed, sick and disabled people now face the risk of losing their homes, but they’ll have to pay the government interest for the ‘privilege’.

Another benefit. Gone.

Support for Mortgage Interest (SMI) is a benefit for people who are struggling to keep up repayments on their property. It covers the interest repayments on a person’s mortgage up to the value of £200,000. But the Tories’ scrapping of this benefit is not new: it was announced by former Chancellor George Osborne in his 2015 budget.

It was, however, not due to come into force until April 2018. But because of the fact there’s a 39 week waiting period before people can claim the benefit, anyone who’s struggling with mortgage repayments now will no longer get it.

The government is replacing SMI with a loan with interest which people must repay in full. So, effectively, people will now have two loans secured against their homes. But the scrapping of this benefit by the Tories comes in a long line of attacks against people on benefits; some of which are so drastic, even the UN has condemned them.

“Grave” human rights violations

In the space of a year, the UN has released three reports into the current and previous Conservative governments, and the former Coalition one. And in each it heavily criticised the Tories’ policies regarding sick and disabled people; going so far as to say that they had committed “grave” and “systematic” violations of disabled people’s human rights.

And due to their austerity agenda, which the UN said “disproportionately” hit disabled people the hardest, since 2010 the Tories have cut:

  • The Independent Living Fund (ILF), which previously supported people with care packages. Since the government cut it, in some areas 88% of people have seen their care packages reduced by up to 50%.
  • Employment and Support Allowance (ESA) for sick and disabled people in the Work-Related Activity Group (WRAG) by a third. This will affect 500,000 people.
  • 55% a week from ESA for sick and disabled 18-to-25-year-olds.
  • 51,000 of disabled people’s Motability vehicles, which were vital for them to live independently.
  • Personal Independence Payments (PIP) from 160,000 people living with mental health issues. And the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) has reduced or stopped PIP for nearly half (45%) of all claimants.

And as The Canary reported just this week, May’s government is going to court to try and block the publication of a report into the Work Capability Assessment (WCA).

May’s ideological abuse

The government says the scrapping of the SMI will save around £150m a year. But when you look at this in terms of the £258bn welfare budget (including pensions), it is a mere 0.05% of this. So, as with so many of the Tories’ cuts to welfare, it’s debatable whether they are doing it for the good of the economy or whether they are just carrying out another cruel attack on the poorest in UK society.

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