Review: Dispatches on the lower Benefit Cap

Earlier this week Channel Four broadcast a new Dispatches documentary on the impact of the lower Benefit Cap. Despite the fact that the new lower level affects a much broader group of people than the initial cap, including many more single people, the programme largely focused on lone parent families with a large number of kids. To truly reflect the impact of the lower cap it would’ve been better to show a broader group of those affected. Continue reading

Case Study: Verifying residents & Housing Benefit maladministration

The word administration, can invoke a sense of the everyday. However good administration is essential in our lives and can have severe consequences when not implemented correctly. My recent case which has been adjudicated by the Ombudsman demonstrates just how checking evidence for proof of entitlement and arranging effective visits is key to making sure housing benefit claims remain in payment. Continue reading

The need for bailiff reform

Z2K is joining AdviceUK, Christians Against Poverty, Citizens Advice, Money Advice Trust, StepChange Debt Charity and The Children’s Society, to launch a new report on the need for fundamental bailiff reform. The report finds that the new bailiff regulations brought in in 2014 are failing to protect people in financial difficulty from unfair treatment.

New research conducted for the launch of Taking Control found that of 1,400 people who had been visited by a bailiff in the last six months, 24 per cent had tried to arrange repayment over the phone but found the bailiff insisted on visiting anyway, most likely so they could charge a higher fee. In addition, nearly a fifth say they were not contacted by the bailiff before they visited. Both of these are examples of non-compliance with the 2014 regulations. Continue reading

Targeted Affordability Fund proves to be little more than a fig leaf

Shelter’s excellent new research last week reveals how unaffordable private renting is becoming for those unable to work and therefore dependent on Housing Benefit.  It finds that, in one in four parts of the country, a small family living in a modest two-bedroom home, will have to come up with an extra £100 a month to make up the shortfall in their rent.  That shortfall can only be paid from what would otherwise be spent on food or clothing for their children.  The corresponding figure for single people or couples in a one-bedroom home is one in five.  Deservedly, this research featured prominently in Sunday’s Observer.

We all know how badly the Benefit Cap hits private tenants.  But in Z2K’s experience, the coalition Government’s caps on the Local Housing Allowance (LHA) rates of Housing Benefit are almost as bad.  Between 2011 and 2013, our Next Door team advised nearly 300 families hit by those caps in Westminster alone.  And the move from the median of local rents to the 30 percentile and subsequent “freeze” in those rates since 2015 have made that situation even worse.  As Shelter’s research shows, this toxic cocktail of policies has ratcheted tighter and tighter on the finances of the nation’s poorest households. Continue reading

Z2K board appoints new Chief Executive

Raji Hunjan has been appointed by Z2K’s board of trustees as the Trust’s new Chief Executive. Raji brings with her extensive experience of combining services with policy and campaigning to bring about greater changes in systems to improve the lives of communities. She is looking forward to bringing this expertise to bear at a time when the need for Z2K’s services is greater than ever before. She comes to Z2K from Inquest, where she served as Operations Director. Prior to this she was the Director of North Kensington Law Centre.

Raji said: Continue reading