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.

Council tax ‘hardship funds’ failing to relieve hardship

council tax bills (002)Last week, Z2K and CPAG held a briefing for MPs and Peers to set out the findings in our new report, Still Too Poor To Pay, which details impact of the abolition of Council Tax Benefit over the past three years. The revelation that hundreds of thousands of London’s poorest households have been summonsed to court after falling into arrears with their new Council Tax bills and that nearly 50,000 households have now had bailiffs instructed against them to recover these debts is a terrible indictment of the policy and its architects. And so we were delighted several MPs and Peers agreed to raise these issues in Parliament. Continue reading

Latest Benefit Cap statistics published

dwpDWP’s quarterly statistics last week showing that 20,000 households are still impacted by the government’s Benefit Cap is grim reading for anyone but the architects of this pernicious policy.

Numerous of these statistics should give cause for concern: 94 per cent of claimants hit by the cap are families with children; two-thirds of those hit are single-parent families and 78 per cent of those have a child under five years-old (17 per cent have a child under 12 months). But the figure that best reveals the distance between the government’s claims and the reality of the cap is that just 15 per cent of those hit by it are in receipt of Job Seekers Allowance i.e. required to be looking for work. The rest are in receipt of Employment Support Allowance, Income Support, Carer’s Allowance or another benefit. Continue reading

Homelessness continues to rise

380_Image_child_povertyYet again the latest official statistics illustrate that homelessness is getting worse – particularly in London. In 2015/16, the total number of households accepted as homeless and in priority need rose by 6 per cent to 57,750. However, in London, acceptances were up by 9 per cent to 19,180.

This trend in the number of acceptances seems to be being driven by significant increases in outer-London boroughs. For example, in the last quarter alone, Barking & Dagenham accepted a duty to 227 households, Croydon 369, Ealing 187, Enfield 261, Hounslow 204, Lewisham 268 and Newham 465. Interestingly, the number of households Newham accepted a full homeless duty to in the second half of 2015/16 was around twice the number it accepted in the first half, making a total of 1,345 during the 12 months. Newham has been heavily criticised for its approach to homeless families, especially by the Focus E15 campaign . The increased number of acceptances could be a sign Newham’s practices are changing in the face of that criticism. Continue reading

Government defeated in the Lords over Housing Bill

housingcrisis1In the past couple of weeks, Peers have yet again been turning the screw on ministers without the majority needed to get their most controversial plans through the House of Lords. This time it is the Government’s dreadful Housing & Planning Bill, which has been under intense pressure. And just as with their rejection of the Chancellor’s tax credits cuts before Christmas and more recent insistence that relative income-poverty should continue to be one of the measurements of child poverty, Peers have not been afraid to vote down legislation they don’t like during the Bill’s Report Stage. Continue reading

Latest stats show Homelessness continues to rise

imagesYesterday’s official statistics reinforce Z2K’s concerns about the homelessness crisis in London. With the exception of the one bright spot of a reduction in the number of families with children placed in bed and breakfast accommodation beyond the six week legal limit, the indicators are now all pointing in the wrong direction. And this is before the next wave of Government cuts, including the lower £440 a week Benefit Cap, come into effect!

Across England as a whole, the number of homeless “acceptances” actually fell slightly on the previous quarter (although they were up on the same period in 2014). But this masks a ten per cent increase in London – from 4,700 to 5,160.  That figure is also 10 per cent higher than it was in the last quarter of 2014, so it is now beginning to look like a sustained trend. It is worth remembering that this increase is against a back drop of Government policy, which has effectively legitimised some very sharp “gatekeeping” practices. Continue reading