Page last updated at 14:20 GMT, Tuesday, 30 June 2009 15:20 UK

Mortgage plan helps six families

Houses in Newcastle, England
Mr Cable said repossessions could top 100,000 after 2011

Just six families in England have been helped by the government's mortgage rescue scheme, a minister has admitted.

The £200m initiative, launched in January, aims to help vulnerable families who are at risk of repossession to stay in their homes.

The Tories said people wanted "action not slogans" while the Lib Dems said the scheme was moving far too slowly.

In response, Housing Minister John Healey said people most at risk would be able to get help quicker in future.

'Fast-track help'

"To make sure families are getting the support they need, I can confirm that from next month a new central team will operate to manage and fast-track the cases of those most at risk of repossession," he said.

Facing criticism of the scheme's effectiveness, ministers have insisted it is gaining momentum.

As well as the six families for whom the threat of repossession has been completely lifted, they say a further 200 have received interim support while another 295 cases are currently being considered.

The vast majority of people who have made inquiries about eligibility have been told they are not eligible
John Leech MP

In April, an extra £80m was allocated to the scheme and the criteria for help was widened to include homeowners suffering from negative equity not just those at the most immediate risk of losing their homes.

The scheme allows not-for-profit housing associations to buy homes from people struggling to pay their mortgage and then allows them to continue living there by paying "affordable rent".

The government said the scheme - introduced across England - could help up to 6,000 households which might otherwise face repossession.

Northern Ireland, Wales and Scotland have, or soon will have, their own initiatives in place.

The Tories said the figures suggested the government was going to fall well short of its targets for the scheme.

"At this rate, Gordon Brown's grand plan to avoid 6,000 repossessions will help less than 25 of the most vulnerable families stay in their homes," said shadow housing minister Grant Shapps.

"It is time he realised that what people who are in danger of losing their home want is action not slogans."

'Crisis'

For the Lib Dems, Treasury spokesman Vince Cable said the UK faced a repossessions "crisis" unless the government did more to help mortgage holders.

He told MPs: "The government's scheme appears to involve a five-month process, which is quite extraordinary."

He added that a "flood" was currently being "dammed up" and that the number of houses seized could reach 100,000 after 2011.

Mr Cable acknowledged ministers had taken action to help homeowners but said they were "storing up even bigger problems".

John Leech, Lib Dem MP for Manchester Withington, said most families in his constituency were unable to get on the scheme.

He added: "When I speak to the person in Greater Manchester who is actually dealing with inquiries, I was assured that the vast majority of people who have made inquiries about eligibility have been told they are not eligible."



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