The cross-party forum for parliamentarians to discuss and advance northern specific housing challenges, the APPG Housing in the North, met again this week to explore further how housing can play a central role in supporting personal health. The group, made up of MP’s and Lords of all political persuasions, heard from a range of speakers outlining how we can achieve this ambition whether in identifying where funding should be targeted or understanding what good practice already exists and how it can be disseminated across the region.
Last October the Smith Institute published the Hidden Costs of Poor-Quality Housing in the North. Commissioned by the Northern Housing Consortium and supported by Liverpool City Region Combined Authority and Karbon Homes, the report highlighted the nearly 1 million owner-occupied homes in the North that currently fail to meet the decent homes standard and the health impacts this can have on residents.
In the time since, the prevention agenda in health has only grown in importance with the recently released NHS Long Term Plan announcing a focus on prevention which could save 500,000 lives. The challenge outlined at the APPG was to now underline and acknowledge the role housing should play in this approach.
It is clear that sub-standard housing can have negative health and wellbeing impacts on any household. We all could suffer at some point from falls or respiratory problems because of poor housing conditions. Similarly, households pay more if their homes are not energy efficient and there is a growing body of academic literature from organisations such as Public Health England and the Kings Fund linking poor housing to health inequalities. Despite this evidence, Northern Housing Consortium members continue to tell us of the challenges they face in striving for greater collaboration with health services.
One area the North can look to for inspiration is Greater Manchester, where housing providers have established a key partnership with the GM Health and Social Care Partnership. ‘Connecting health and housing’ has become a central tenet of Greater Manchester Housing Providers highlighted by the ambition to reduce the pressures on health and social care by investing in new modern homes and support packages for an ageing population. With this in mind, the APPG was delighted to welcome colleagues at the centre of this collaboration to discuss what learning we should take when it comes to the integration of health and housing and how good practice can be spread across the North.
The benefits of a collaborative approach are widespread. Homes with a category 1 hazard are estimated to cost the NHS £1.4 billion. The impact of poor housing on residents’ health, such as the development of respiratory and circulatory diseases, set against the treatment costs, if the causes of the ill health are not dealt with, are significant. For example, the relatively small cost of fitting a handrail on the steps of a vulnerable person’s home to prevent a fall will be far more cost-effective than treating the subsequent fall injury. This is not simply about monetary gain; it is about a respect for people in aid of assistance and support, demonstrated through the prevention of illness and injury.
The All Party Parliamentary Group Housing in the North took place 26th February 2019 at the House of Commons, Westminster. Meeting notes and further information will be available soon via the Northern Housing Consortium website.