In 2020 we grew our client engagement and empowerment work; ensuring client's voice and experience are at the heart of our policy recommendations.
Throughout the Covid-19 pandemic, Z2K teamed up with sounddelivery to run online workshops with the people we support.
In these workshops, a dozen individuals have been talking about the changes they would like to see made to the Social Security and housing systems after lockdown, so that they adequately support everyone to live stable and dignified lives.
During the workshops, clients learnt four storytelling skills which they could use for digital campaigning: blogging, vlogging, audio recordings and photography. The work resulted in most of those clients wanting to describe their experiences publicly in audio recordings in a special project calling #LifeAfterLockdown.
Combining what the people involved in this project have told us with evidence from our casework, these are the key changes that we would like to see made to the Private Rented Sector and Universal Credit, so that they adequately support everyone in #LifeAfterLockdown.
- The standards of housing in the Private Rented Sector are often low, and it can be difficult to get landlords to undertake repairs or adequately see to the upkeep of the property. To resolve this, we are calling for mandatory, funded, enforced licensing schemes. This would mean Private Rented Sector properties have to be of a certain standard, with repercussions for landlords who don’t adhere to this standard.
- Currently, ‘local housing allowance’ i.e. how much you can get to cover your housing costs if you’re on benefits, only covers the bottom 30% of properties. This forces people into tiny, inadequate properties far from their communities. We would like to see housing benefit increased to cover median rents, and the Benefit Cap removed, so that people can afford to live in adequate properties that are close to their existing communities and support systems.
- Many Private Rented Sector tenants lack control and choice. They are at risk of being evicted at any time, and trapped in unpleasant properties as they cannot move without a deposit. We would like to see end to ‘no-fault’ evictions so that a landlord needs a reason to evict you – e.g. you haven’t paid your rent. We would also like to see the introduction of a deposit ‘passporting’ scheme which would allow a deposit to be transferred from one landlord to another.
- UC does not pay enough for people to live stable, dignified lives. While the £20 a week emergency increase to UC has been a big help, this £20 increase to UC must be maintained beyond March 2021, and this increase must go further so that all benefits are brought in line with the cost of rent and living.
- People on benefits are often stigmatised, and many people have a lack of interest or investment in improving our social security system. Covid-19 has meant many more people are engaging with, and invested in the social security system. This shouldn’t change after Covid-19, more people should continue to take a more active role in demanding a better social security system, and ensuring that people on benefits aren’t stigmatised.
- The system of benefits sanctions cause hardship and stress. During this pandemic, the Government didn’t sanction anyone on benefits. This was welcome and the use of sanctions should be stopped beyond Covid-19 and completely removed from our social security system.