About Marc Francis

Marc is Z2K's Policy & Campaigns Director. He was formerly the Housing & Neighbourhoods Policy Advisor at Save the Children and Public Affairs Manager at Shelter, leading successful campaigns against the long-term use of Bed & Breakfast accommodation for homeless families and for a Tenancy Deposit Scheme to be included in the Housing Act.

Benefit cap – ‘Real misery is being caused to no good purpose’

The Zacchaeus 2000 Trust welcomes today’s High Court ruling that the Benefit Cap unlawfully discriminates against lone parents with children under two years-old.  We hope this is the beginning of the end of a truly dreadful policy.  But given the Government’s swift announcement of its intention to appeal against the decision, thousands of lone parent families suffering this unlawful discrimination are still left facing severe financial hardship and homelessness while the legal tussle continues.  Continue reading

66,000 households hit by lower Benefit Cap

Yesterday the first set of quarterly statistics showing the impact of the lower Benefit Cap were published and they include several interesting revelations. Z2K has consistently opposed the cap since its first introduction in 2013. We do not accept that it provides greater work incentives, as most of those affected are unable to work in the first place, and the evidence shows it simply serves to further impoverish low income households, with many made homeless as a result. These latest figures confirm this.

Unsurprisingly, given that the lower cap has brought many more households within scope, the total number capped has increased dramatically from around 20,000 in November 2016 to 66,135 in February 2017.  However, this figure is well below the total of 88,000 forecast by DWP in its Impact Assessment back in August.  And it is substantially below the 120,000 suggested when the legislation lowering the cap was going through Parliament.  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

DWP flip flops on Universal Credit & DHP guidance

There’s so much that’s wrong in principle with the Government’s Benefit Cap on Social Security that we sometimes overlook the way it is being implemented.  But with roll-out of the lower £440 a week cap (for families in London) now complete, we are beginning to see the harsh realities.

Last week, I met a lone parent served with a Notice of Seeking Possession by her local authority landlord after falling into rent arrears because of the lower cap.  Her benefits were already capped at £500 a week, leaving her to pay nearly half her rent of £120 a week.  Since 7th November, she has been required to pay £105 a week – an impossible ask.  Hopefully, possession proceedings with be withdrawn and a Discretionary Housing Payment awarded to help her meet this shortfall.  Continue reading

Westminster renews its drive to shift homeless families out of London

Not for the first time, Westminster City Council hit the headlines last week for the way it is dealing with homeless people.  In a report to the outgoing Cabinet Member for Housing, Regeneration, Business & Economic Development, officers requested authorisation for a new Private Rented Sector Offers Policy, and Accommodation Procurement Policy and an Accommodation Placement policy – all to be implemented with effect from 30th January.

Taken on its own, the second of these three new policies is relatively anodyne – most London boroughs are having to source temporary accommodation (TA) out of their areas.  However, the first envisages a significant increase in Westminster’s use of its power to discharge its duty to statutory homeless households through the offer of accommodation in the private rented sector, and the third creates three bands for TA: Continue reading