One step closer to decent homes

This week marks an important step on the road towards a decent standard of housing for all tenants. Karen Buck MP’s crucial Private Member’s Bill – Homes (Fitness for Human Habitation and Liability for Housing Standards) – has finally gained support from government.

At Z2K we help those of our clients who are homeless and single – those without access to statutory support – to find and secure quality, safe accommodation in the Private Rented Sector (PRS). While this is a life-changing service for those we support, our limited capacity means it’s a drop in the ocean compared to the huge numbers of people who are still struggling to live without a decent home.

Although homelessness (including those in emergency and temporary accommodation as well as rough-sleeping) remains the most acute and damaging issue in the current housing crisis, there are also widespread problems for people in social or private rented housing.

Both private and social rented homes may be substandard, with hazardous conditions

Many people who manage to find somewhere to rent are still forced to put up with shockingly awful conditions, from excessive mould and damp to a complete lack of heating or ventilation. Living in such substandard properties poses a serious risk to people’s health. It can also damage children’s educational performance and wellbeing, greatly impacting on their future life chances.

What’s more, this is not an unusual situation reserved for an unlucky few. While many landlords do ensure they are providing adequate accommodation for their tenants, a significant number do not. The English Housing Survey shows that one million homes have at least one hazard which poses a serious risk to tenants’ health. Of these, 250,000 are social housing and 750,000 are privately rented – meaning one in six of all private rentals are forcing people to live in inadequate conditions.

This new Bill is an opportunity to change that. Instead of simply expecting people to put up with these unhealthy and hazardous conditions, it would require landlords to make their properties fit for human habitation. It would also give tenants the right to challenge landlords who do not deal with hazardous disrepair, by taking them to court. In short, it offers all tenants the right to something which surely everyone deserves – basic living conditions.

Karen Buck MP, whose Private Member’s Bill has received government backing

Having campaigned for greater tenant rights for years, Z2K is particularly pleased to support Karen Buck in her bid to make this Bill into law. The Bill has already received support from the Residential Landlord’s Association and the Chartered Institute of Environmental Health Officers. Now, at last, it has gained official backing from the government. This is a testament to the hard work of all the policymakers, tenants’ organisations and charities who have fought for the rights and duties it represents, and pushed this incredibly important issue onto the government’s agenda.

The Bill will have its second reading in parliament this Friday 19th January before proceeding to the committee stage, where each section and suggested amendment will be debated. Z2K will continue to monitor its progress to ensure it delivers on the legal rights Karen Buck and many others have fought for. We will also keep learning from our clients’ experiences about the ongoing issues and pitfalls of the system, and carry on challenging those in power.

This Bill may not be the only solution to the housing crisis, but it is certainly a crucial step. With a growing body of support – including now from government – helping it on its way towards becoming legislation, we hope it will continue to progress. At the same time, Z2K will continue working to help those in need access the decent home they deserve.

 

 

 

A small win for maintaining independence

Z2K Caseworker Andy McCarthy highlights the vital importance of mobility support for people with disabilities

Sarah has osteoarthritis which makes it impossible for her to walk more than 50 meters without stopping, and also has severe anxiety. She has fallen over while walking in the community many times, which has understandably made her cautious going out by herself. Apart from taking a bus for 2 stops down the road to see a friend, she would never leave the house without someone helping her. This in turn made Sarah feel extremely isolated and depressed, as she lost contact with her support network and was stuck indoors for the majority of the time.

After applying for Disability Living Allowance (DLA) Sarah was awarded enhanced mobility rate, and so was entitled to a Mobility Car through the Motability Scheme. The scheme enables disabled people to get mobile by exchanging their enhanced rate mobility allowance to lease a car. This was an “absolute God-send” for Sarah, as it gave her a new independence; her son was able to drive her to go shopping, to GP appointments, and to visit friends and family who she lost contact with since her mobility worsened.

However with DLA being phased out and gradually being replaced by Personal Independence Payment (PIP), Sarah was reassessed with troubling results. Her Daily Living component was reduced to the standard rate, while she lost her mobility rate entitlement altogether. This meant that the car she relied on for essential travel was to be taken away as she no longer qualified for the Motability scheme.

Sadly, Sarah’s experience of transferring over to PIP is extremely common. A recent Freedom of Information Request by Disability Rights UK1 revealed that 50% of DLA recipients who were receiving enhanced rate mobility lost this entitlement when reassessed for PIP. The irony of calling a disability benefit ‘Personal Independence Payment’ while simultaneously taking away people’s means to remaining independent is astounding.

With help from Z2K Sarah was able to lodge an appeal for her PIP entitlement. She was extremely worried about attending, especially as her Mobility car was due to be taken away 2 days later. Fortunately, Sarah was awarded higher rates for both Daily Living and Mobility components. She was able to keep her mobility car and the independence it allowed her.

But the fact remains that thousands of disabled people have had their enhanced mobility component downgraded or removed upon reassessment for PIP (130,400 people as of 2016)1, which has had untold impact for these people’s ability to manage.

 

 

1 https://www.disabilityrightsuk.org/news/2017/july/half-dla-claimants-lose-their-higher-mobility-rate-support-moving-pip

Vacancy: Office Administrator

We are currently looking for a full-time Office Administrator to provide administration and reception support to the team, ensuring the smooth running of the organisation and helping us provide efficient and welcoming services.

This is an exceptional opportunity for a well-organised individual to contribute to our casework and campaigns, helping to secure justice in the welfare and benefits system for our clients.

  • Hours: 35 hours per week (5 days), 9:30 a.m. to 5:30 p.m.
  • Salary:£21,000 to £23,000 per annum depending on experience
  • Holidays: 28 days plus bank holidays
  • Location: Victoria, London
  • Contract: Permanent

To Apply
Please download the job pack and equal opportunities monitoring form (which does not form part of your application).  Please send your CV and covering letter outlining how you meet the essential requirements of the job description to recruitment@z2k.org

Closing Date for applications: Wednesday 24th January 2018 at 5.00pm.

Vacancy: Tribunals Project Worker (Fixed Term 3 months)

This is a really exciting opportunity to join Z2K as we work to scale up our Disabilities Tribunal work with additional short term funding that we have secured.

You will be working with a dedicated and small team that cuts across casework and policy to deliver this ambitious programme of both increasing the number of cases we take to tribunal and developing the capacity within the sector.

Given the tight timescale, you should only apply if you can start by 5th February 2018 latest.

• Hours of Work : 5 days a week (35 hours)
• Salary : £23,000 to £26,000 per annum depending on experience pro rata
• Holidays : 28 days plus bank holidays, pro rata
• Location : Victoria
• Duration : 3 months

To Apply
Please download the job pack and equal opportunities monitoring form (which does not form part of your application). Please send your CV and covering letter outlining how you meet the essential requirements of the job description to recruitment@z2k.org

Closing date for applications: 5.00pm on 15th January 2018

Key Dates for January 2018

Disability benefits, housing standards and homelessness (not to mention Universal Credit): 2018 is set to be a big year in the world of welfare reform. As there’s so much going on, we’ve broken it down into monthly bitesize pieces. So here are some of the key developments to look out for this January.

Karen Buck MP’s Homes for Human Habitation Bill

Do you like the sound of living in a home that is fit for human habitation, one which doesn’t damage your health and wellbeing through substandard conditions? And don’t you think all tenants – whether in social or privately-rented accommodation – should be entitled to that basic standard of living? So do we. But unfortunately, that’s not currently the reality. Many tenants suffer in terrible, dangerous conditions and have no legal right to demand improvements – as shown so tragically in the disaster at Grenfell Tower.

One MP is trying to change this. On 19th January, Karen Buck MP’s Homes (Fitness for Human Habitation and Liability for Housing Standards) Bill will have its second reading in parliament. If it passes, the Bill would demand that all rented accommodation – both private and social – be made ‘fit for human habitation.’ It would also enable renters to take legal action against landlords who don’t maintain the property in a decent condition.

However, the Bill does not have government backing. This means that in order to pass, it needs at least 100 MPs to attend parliament and vote for it on January 19th.

So please take a minute to email your MP and ask them to support it here: http://act.generationrent.org/lobby/fitforhumanhabitation

 

Select Committee’s Recommendations for Disability Benefits

The Work and Pensions Select Committee has now completed its inquiry into the assessment processes for the major disability benefits – Personal Independence Payment (PIP) and Employment and Support Allowance (ESA) – and will be making their recommendations to government later this month. These are likely to include suggestions around the audio recording of assessments, taking evidence from claimants’ companions and assessors’ treatment of mental health issues.

We are hoping the Committee will also take into account the unjust and flawed design of the assessment process, and be bold in their statements on how the system must be improved.

Read our submission to the inquiry here.

 

Local Council Tax Support Schemes in Hackney and Lambeth

We have been campaigning against London Borough of Hackney’s plans to cut council tax support for its poorest residents by increasing their minimum payment from 15% to 20%. This would be a significant increase for those already struggling on low incomes. Along with CPAG, we met the Mayor before Christmas to set out our concerns.  We hope he has taken those on board, but will keep campaigning against any increase in charges and the use of bailiffs right up until the final decision at the Full Council meeting later this month.

Read our submission on the proposals here.

Unfortunately, Lambeth Council have confirmed they intend to raise the minimum payment demanded of their poorest residents from 15% to 20%. Their final decision will be announced after their Full Council meeting on 24th January. Again, we will work to ensure that their £400,000 hardship fund is used fully and effectively to support those in need.

Read our report on localised council tax support schemes here.

 

Evidence sessions on Tenant Fees Bill and Private Rented Sector

The Communities and Local Government Select Committee continues its inquiries into standards in the Private Rented Sector (PRS) and the draft Tenant Fees Bill. While the latter focuses on rights between landlords, tenants and letting agents, the former looks at the role of local authorities in providing and regulating accommodation in the PRS. Both inquiries will hold their first oral evidence session on 8th January, and will continue throughout the month.

Read our submission to the PRS inquiry here.