What are going to be some of the major issues for Londoners in 2024? In this piece we hear from some of our funded partners, fighting for a fairer London, about some of the key issues in housing, migration, employment and social security, with an introduction by our Chief Executive Manny Hothi.
Introduction from Manny Hothi
2024 will bring London’s challenges into sharp focus. The city’s housing crisis eclipses all else, driving millions of low-income Londoners into poverty and pushing well-paid professionals to settle and raise families elsewhere. The housing crisis will surely feature heavily in both the national and mayoral elections, increasingly framed as a barrier to economic growth.
Migration will also be an election battleground. Whilst the main political parties argue over who is toughest, Londoners are being pushed into poverty and destitution because of the prohibitive costs of settlement and the cruel use of no-recourse to public funds. Politicians will play to the gallery about migration, but we shouldn’t stop reminding them about the positive contribution migrants make to London.
They will also talk tough on welfare. But that doesn’t mean we should remind them about the harm of our inadequate safety net and show the human cost of a system that is overly punitive.
The hope that comes with a national mood for change must be accompanied by steadfast action by civil society. Change will not benefit those who have the least, unless we work alongside them to fight for it.
Introduction by Manny Hothi, chief executive of Trust for London
The housing crisis in 2024
From Dinah Roake, chair of the London Housing Panel
My wish for 2024 is that the government gets serious about tackling the scourge of temporary accommodation in London and funds the new generation of social rented housing needed to provide homes which solve the housing crisis.
People are placed in temporary accommodation by their local authority when they become homeless. As its name signals, it was only ever designed to be temporary. But every night, tens of thousands of families are housed in poor quality temporary accommodation. That is vastly more than in 2010. And according to the Centre for Homelessness Impact (CHI), over 16,000 households in London have been in this unsettled state for over 5 years.
This situation has got more acute with the cost of living crisis and the surge in private rents in London. This situation is bad for anyone, and especially children. Living in temporary accommodation for long periods can have serious consequences in terms of education, employment and health outcomes, impacting the economy as a whole.
How do we tackle this?
We must tackle this and we can. The key is to provide more housing in the capital available at a secure, social rent, affordable to those on low and middle incomes. We can do this both by purchasing existing properties to increase the stock of social housing, or through new builds.
People sometimes think it’s too expensive to do that, nice though it would be, or that it would break some sacrosanct fiscal rule. This is just untrue. Calculations by the London Housing Panel, and CHI/Chartered Institute of Housing show that the savings by government in spending on housing benefits would be great. On top of this, the income secured through rents paid by those that can afford it would pay for the borrowing and the capital required. And it would do so within a year, when used to purchase existing properties converted to a social rent tenure. Why wouldn’t you do something which doesn’t cost you any more in government spending on housing, and housing benefit, and makes sure that everyone can have a home they can afford to live in?
Let’s hope 2024 is the year that this social evil is put to bed.
London's Migrant Crossroads: Challenges and hope in 2024
From Jenni Regan, CEO of IMIX
With election fever gripping the UK, migration is set to be a hot-button issue despite not topping public concerns. This means 2024 presents both stark challenges and opportunities for migrants and the organisations supporting them in London.
The Harsh Climate: The "hostile environment" policies remain, casting a long shadow on service delivery. Refugee support groups struggle to help newly evicted individuals with a mere week's notice to find housing, work, or benefits. This has led to a surge in homelessness, leaving organisations scrambling to offer little beyond sleeping bags.
Backlog Blues: The ballooning asylum backlog is another primary concern. Withdrawn claims raise fears of a rise in undocumented migrants while extending and complicating existing cases. This puts immense pressure on charities, as legal aid availability for asylum seekers is severely limited.
Building Bridges, Not Walls: We're actively engaging in pre-election policy communication to counter the negativity. We aim to ensure the next government understands what a fair and efficient asylum system looks like. We're also humanising the issue by amplifying the voices of migrants and their advocates, reminding everyone we are dealing with people and stories, not just numbers.
Shifting the Narrative: Collaborating with key constituencies to provide media and communications training is another crucial step. By equipping them with the tools to share positive stories about migration, we can shift the public discourse and influence voting intentions.
Our Call to Action: The most pressing demand remains simple: lift the ban and let people work! Granting asylum seekers the right to work would fill crucial vacancies in sectors like healthcare and hospitality, benefiting them and the economy.
It's a year of crossroads for London's migrant community. Challenges abound, but among the hardships, a glimmer of hope shines through. Through proactive advocacy, humanising narratives, and empowering communities, we can push for a more compassionate and just migration system in the year ahead.
What to expect in the world of work
From Victoria Speed, director of ELAN
2024 is underway and we anticipate a year with much change in workplace rights in 2024. Here we highlight some of the key changes to look out for.
We’ll see more evidence of technology and artificial intelligence disrupt the worker experience at all stages - from recruitment, to shift and task allocation, to measuring productivity and everything in between. The impact will be felt most at first by vulnerable workers who might find shifts being automatically allocated at times that don’t work for them or be at risk of the bias and discrimination found in some systems. We’ll continue to advocate for regulation in this space and share knowledge via the Working Group on AI & Tech that all are welcome to join.
2024 will see some potentially interesting changes for parents. Employees will soon be able to make two flexible working requests a year, from day one of their employment, and they won’t have to explain the effect this change might have on their employer. Employers will soon have a legal duty to consult with staff. Also for parents, we’ll soon see the period of special protection from redundancy for employees who are on maternity leave, adoption leave or those on shared parental leave be extended. We’ll need to make sure these changes are known in our communities and that parents are supported in using these rights.
Many of the workers that ELAN members assist are working on irregular contracts and irregular hours. This year will see a new right for workers with unpredictable working hours such as zero-hour workers to request a more predictable working pattern. Of course, we can’t yet determine the value of this right without knowing how far employers will go to consider the request. But the very fact that change is coming in this area in any form is at least something!
For the many workers in London in the hospitality industry, there will be a new ban on withholding tips from workers and many stand to benefit. However, as with all employment rights, ensuring workers know about this new law and can enforce it, will be key. Finally, some changes too in holiday pay calculations with businesses being able to provide rolled-up holiday pay for staff who work irregular hours. ELAN members will likely find many of their clients impacted by this and we urge ELAN members to gather data on the impact of this change.
Of course, political changes might bring further changes with an autumn election looking possible. If Labour wins an election, we anticipate even more change in late 2024/2025.
What we do know for certain is that employment rights advice for those without means remains crucial.
About the contributing organisations
The London Housing Panel is made up of 15 groups and organisations that want the diverse voices of different housing experiences in London to influence the Mayor’s policies. The panel carries out its work in collaboration with the Greater London Authority (GLA), and is joint-funded by Trust for London and the Mayor of London. Find out more about the Panel.
IMIX is a team of professional communication experts who want to change the conversation about migration and refugees to create a more welcoming society. We fund IMIX to support its strategic communications work with grassroots migration organisations in London. Find out more about IMIX.
Employment Legal Advice Network is a network of 60+ organisations working to help people in precarious, low-paid jobs understand more about their employment rights - and how to enforce them. ELAN is funded by Trust for London. Find out more about ELAN.
Disabled People Against Cuts (DPAC) campaign against cuts to services that affect Disabled people. We fund DPAC under our Disability Justice Fund to trial a new mobile coffee-bike hub at protests as a way to reach out to more Disabled people, and encourage them to get involved in campaigning. Find out more about DPAC.