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

The Grenfell fire is a tragic reminder of why the voices of marginalised communities must be heard

Like so many people, I was horrified to wake up last Wednesday to learn about the fire at Grenfell Tower.  I was previously the Director at North Kensington Law Centre, and led the decision to move from our offices of 40 years in the Golborne Road, to the heart of the Lancaster West community into Baseline Studios.  A key part of the decision to do this was to be closer to the communities that most needed our legal help on housing, welfare benefits and immigration matters.  Knowing that many of our clients at NKLC were residents of Grenfell Tower left me extremely saddened by the news. Continue reading

Pimlico Advice Hub Case Study

Z2K is a partner in the Pimlico Advice Hub, along with the Cardinal Hulme centre and Westminster Foodbank, where we provide advice and support. The Hub is based in St Gabriel’s Hall on the Churchill Gardens estate in Pimlico. It was recently nominated for the best neighbourhood project award at the Westminster Community Awards.

Geoff and his partner approached the Hub in early 2016. The couple were facing eviction from their Council property due to rent arrears. The reason for this was that his Housing Benefit had stopped. They had recently started their own business, their own café. This had been their dream for years but the practicalities of starting the business had caused them many difficulties. They had had to take out a large loan to start up the business. As they couldn’t qualify for a business loan their bank had classified it as a personal loan. When the council realised they had the loan they stopped their Housing Benefit as it took them over the capital limits. The Council also made frequent and unnecessary requests pertaining to Geoff’s status as an EU national. Continue reading

Z2K on the London Legal Walk 2017

A team of eighteen Z2K staff, volunteers, trustees and supporters participated in the 2017 London Legal Walk to raise vital funds for our much needed services. This year 12,000 walkers in 700 teams joined the walk, all raising fund for free legal advice charities in London and the South East.

The weather could not have been better, with glorious sunshine beaming down as we set off from outside the Royal Courts of Justice. What is particularly enjoyable about the walk is seeing the entire legal sector come together to raise money. Teams from every major law firm and chambers join together with law centres, local citizen’s advice bureaus, other advice agencies, for a 10km walk across London. Since the cuts to legal aid this fundraising is more important than ever before.

As is usually the case the Z2K team immediately split into several different groups, divided by their different walking speeds. Our chair, Mick, was leading from the front with his brisk pace but others took more of an amble, slowed down the presence of a four legged friend, who engendered much admiration from fellow walkers.

So far we have raised over £17,000 from 66 donors, with more to come in. If you haven’t yet donated please do so here. We’re already looking forward to next year!

Westminster council Housing Benefit assessment confusion

As a complaint caseworker, it is my job to identify trends where organisations have persistently made the same mistakes. A growing trend among my work is the mis-management by local authorities of assessing peoples’ housing benefit who are self-employed or have a fluctuating income.

There is a growing reluctance amongst local authorities such as Westminster Council to apply the Right to Reside test fully for EU housing benefit claimants. Westminster Council housing benefit assessments processes for those on fluctuating income often take several months to assess. Over the period of the assessment the claimant is bombarded with requests for repeat information, questions asked are often unspecific, leading to further more detailed information needing to be provided. Questions asked are often irrelevant to the requirements of assessing people for right to reside status. Continue reading