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 Hopefully, possession proceedings with be withdrawn and a Discretionary Housing Payment awarded to help her meet this shortfall.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
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
Yesterday marked the inaugural meeting of the Board of Homes for Londoners – the Mayor of London’s body to oversee housing policy, strategy and delivery. Chaired by Mayor himself, Homes for Londoners is the fulfilment of one of Sadiq Khan’s key election campaign pledges.
At this stage, however, it is not clear whether it will be any different at all from Boris Johnson’s original Homes for London Board that performed the same role in his second term. Indeed, while there are obviously new faces, the Board’s structure remains the same with appointees from London Councils, the property sector and big housing associations. At this stage, neither social tenants nor the Capital’s homeless households are directly represented. The Mayor should co-opt both a tenants’ rep and someone from a homelessness charity onto the Board before it meets next. Continue reading
Last week’s official homelessness statistics revealed that the number of homeless families illegally placed in Bed and Breakfast accommodation beyond the six week legal limit has risen to 1,140. This is the first time in a decade the number has been this high. Astonishingly, three London boroughs are alone responsible for around one-third of those breaches of the law. At the end of June, Croydon had 168 families in B&B longer than six weeks, Harrow had 120, and Redbridge had 132.
Unheralded research Shelter published last year reminds us why prolonged stays in B&B have been outlawed for families with children. This is no place for a child recounts the experiences of twenty homeless families placed into emergency accommodation by their local authority. In it, the parents describe the impact of the lack of space on their children, and the particular difficulties caused by having to use shared facilities at mealtimes and bedtime. Many of those interviewed were clearly also worried about the safety of their children. Continue reading
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