This General Election must be about more than just Brexit. For Z2K, it is the fight against poverty and urging all political leaders to listen to the voices of those who have been most let down by a failing Social Security system. And we urge the voluntary sector to stand with us in this demand.
At Z2K we know first-hand about the impact of welfare reforms and deep cuts to benefits through the experiences of the people who use our services every day. Whether we are asked for help by a person who has been denied their disability benefits despite a clear entitlement; a family that is facing eviction because the benefit cap means they can no longer afford their rent; or a single person who is forced to move into a poor quality private rented flat miles away from their networks, it is time to step up our demands for a Social Security system that works as an effective safety net and a tool for moving on with their lives.
Our commitment to tackling the problems caused by a system that is simply not working stems from the stories of the people we work with. We know how disempowering the process is for those who are expected to navigate it, with one person telling us, “I don’t think I could have coped with so much stress, so much paperwork, it was so bad I couldn’t even open any letters”.
A system that is putting so much pressure on individuals is one that is failing to treat people with the compassion and respect they deserve. The long-term impact of this that our clients talk about repeatedly include unmanageable debts and serious mental health problems.
The small charity sector is diverse and full of those who fight tirelessly with and for people to live stable and dignified lives. At Z2K know we are stronger because we work with so many others in the small charity sector who are equally as passionate about securing justice for those they work with. Across all sector issues, be that domestic abuse, children’s rights, immigration, disability or many others, cuts problems with the benefits system and lack of affordable and suitable housing. Many of us are compelled to use our limited resources to help people navigate a system which is becoming harder for people to navigate without help. Now more than ever the sector should all be working hard to help our clients and supporters hold politicians to account on fighting poverty.
We want all political parties who are campaigning in this election to commit to solving the problems in the benefits system that our clients face every day. For too long the debate has been framed around austerity, cost savings and efficiencies. We want the conversation to be framed around people and the tools we all need to avoid the poverty trap and live decent and dignified lives.
Specifically, for Z2K our asks are:
- A Disability Benefits system that starts by believing people who are sick and disabled:
- An assessment process which is objective and transparent, and where the onus is on the DWP and not the claimant to gather the medical evidence needed.
- Medical assessors who have expert knowledge of the condition that the claimant presents with
- A Mandatory Reconsideration process which fully scrutinises the original decision and asks for new evidence if needed
- More choice to people claiming Universal Credit about how they want to manage their income:
- Give all claimants the option of having rent paid directly to the landlord without any conditions attached to this
- Make it clearer that the advance payment is a loan that will need to be paid back
- Reduce the five week wait to two weeks
- Scrap the terrible benefit cap at least for those who are not expected to work either because they are too disabled or unwell or because they have very young children.
- More public money invested in the building of genuinely secure and affordable social homes:
- Ensure communities are more involved in the planning stage of building new homes
- Consult with people to ensure that the housing that is built is the housing that people actually want and need
- Reform of the Private Rented Sector (PRS) to ensure its suitability for people on low income:
- Limit increases of rent above the rate of inflation
- Inspections of properties by local authorities with real powers to enforce physical and management standards
- A commitment to listening to the experiences of people with the greatest housing needs.
This is the small charity sector’s chance to fight for a new government that commitments to tackling poverty. It is our opportunity to use our power effectively, and not rely on others with seemingly more power than ours to use theirs responsibly.
You can keep up to date with our communications here.