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

DWP admits to 80% Mandatory Reconsideration target

It has long been suspected by many that the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) has set targets for certain decision, whether that be the number of sanctions imposed or claimants found fit for work. But in a recent response to a Freedom of Information request the Department actually disclosed that it has a target for the number of Mandatory Reconsideration (MR) decisions that are upheld.

MR was introduced in 2014 for all benefits where there is a right of appeal to the Social Security and Child Support Tribunal, including Employment and Support Allowance (ESA) and Personal Independence Payment (PIP). Previously, if you disagreed with a DWP decision you could appeal to the tribunal, who would look at it again. Now you must first ask the DWP to ‘reconsider’ their decision before appealing. Continue reading

Housing services fail to recognise the needs of male Domestic Violence victims

Photo by David Graham Scott

Domestic violence is an issue that can affect both men and women in various ways and to various degrees. Provision of services for victims of domestic violence are woefully inadequate across the board, and there are particular problems when it comes to making homelessness applications. For example a Z2K client who had spent six months in a refuge after leaving an abusive partner was told by her local authority to return to the property registered in his name when she tried to make a homelessness application. But there is also a particular problem when it comes to male domestic violence victims. 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