Working to achieve systemic change is at the heart of everything we do. We bridge the gap between our clients who are living in poverty and the decision-makers who have the power to change this.
While we welcomed the changes made to our social security system during the Covid-19 pandemic, we would have liked to see the Government go further to ensure that everyone is adequately supported both during, and in the aftermath of, this pandemic.
In 2020 we ran workshops with clients where we learnt how to talk about our experiences of Universal Credit, homelessness and living in insecure and poor-quality private rented sector accommodation, using four storytelling skills for digital campaigning: blogging, vlogging, audio recordings and photography. Most described their experiences publicly in audio recordings in a project called #LifeAfterLockdown.
The government’s harsh policies on accessing disability benefits are preventing disabled and unwell people from getting the disability payments they are entitled to. Hundreds of thousands of claimants for Employment and Support Allowance (ESA) and Personal Independence Payment (PIP) are being wrongly turned down. In order to get their payments reinstated, they have to go through a long, draining ordeal of Mandatory Reconsideration and appeal, putting them under severe financial and emotional pressure for sometimes over a year.
Many of the people we support either face emotional or financial hardship as a result of being on Universal Credit (UC), or are at risk of adverse effects if they move onto it. UC’s inadequacies are only going to become more pressing as those on legacy benefits continue to be pushed onto UC. Many of these people will lose out financially and face harm as a result of the inadequate UC system.
Housing and homelessness
Access to affordable housing has become a growing concern over recent years, with rising rents and welfare cuts pushing more and more people into homelessness. Our policy work includes all aspects of homelessness issues, including national and local housing strategy, homelessness policy, property conditions, improper use of temporary accommodation and tenant rights.
→ Update to the Z2K Submission to the Housing, Communities, and Local Government Select Committee’s Inquiry into the Impact of Covid-19 (Coronavirus) on Homelessness and the Private Rented Sector, November 2020
The benefit cap, imposed in 2013 and further restricted to an even lower rate in 2016, has reduced the income of tens of thousands of the country’s poorest people. Through our research and frontline services, we have seen the damaging effect this is having on individuals and families, with many people struggling to afford rent, heating and food as a result.
Council Tax Support
In 2013 the Coalition Government abolished Council Tax Benefit, forcing local councils to carry the costs of support for their most vulnerable residents. This was made even more difficult by a 10 per cent cut in funding from national government. In addition, the ruling that pensioners be exempt from paying means that all cuts must be borne by working-age households. While eight London boroughs have maintained full support for claimants, the majority have introduced minimum payment schemes. This means people previously deemed too poor to pay are now expected to afford up to 30 per cent of the council tax bill.
Local Welfare Provision
As part of the Welfare Reform Act 2012, the coalition government abolished the national Social Fund for crisis loans and community care grants for those in need. In doing so they shifted the burden of paying for and administering support – now called Local Welfare Provision – onto local councils.
Tens of thousands of people are subject to enforcement action by bailiffs every year, with too many of them – including children – suffering intimidation, injustice and distress at the hands of a vastly unregulated industry.