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.

The challenges and opportunities facing Homes for Londoners

city-hall-att2_(660x440)_(2)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

Families illegally placed in B&B on the increase

380_Image_child_povertyLast 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

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