It is estimated that over 70% of health impacts occur as consequences of factors outside the formal health service. There is a close relationship between poor housing and poor health. Housing and housing related activities, particularly the improvement in housing conditions, are accepted as some of the most critical of these impacts.
We all need not just a roof over our head but a home which is warm and dry, safe and free from infestation. This is one of the basics for health set out by the World Health Organisation. The impact on health of homelessness, poor quality housing and the wider urban environment show this link most clearly.
Poor housing can also have a negative impact on a wider range of physical and mental health problems
Our first Housing and Health strategy was published in 2001.
It looked at the contribution of housing to health in Northern Ireland and set out areas where housing interfaced with health. It recognised the need for partnership working not only with the health sector but also other statutory, voluntary and community sectors to tackle a wide range of housing related issues.
A report was published in 2006 which charted the Housing Executive’s progress since 2001 and highlighted the importance of close co-operation, strategic planning and commissioning of services across the sectors of housing, health and social care. The Supporting People programme made the most significant impact in this area.
The Housing and Health Strategy was reviewed in 2007. A number of themes emerged.
Health and social care
- An increased emphasis on prevention and health promotion encouraging people to take greater responsibility for their health and well-being
- Transfer of focus of patient from hospital to community setting.
- The demographic profile is changing with important implications not only in terms of increased households /reducing household size but an increasing older population
- A growing number of older people and other vulnerable client groups requiring varying levels of support to enable them to live as independently as possible
- Increased levels of affordable and decent housing
- More Supported Housing to deal with an increasing and increasingly diverse older population with a wide range of support needs
- Improved energy efficiency including renewable technologies helping to improve air quality and alleviate fuel poverty.
Housing is now recognised as not only affecting physical health but also social wellbeing. That is why housing has such a significant role to play in contributing to sustainable communities in building not only physical but social capital. Decent and affordable housing is widely accepted as an important catalyst and a first step towards a sense of individual and community well being with beneficial consequences in terms of stable home environment, better health and better educational and employment opportunities.
Our achievements in Housing and Health
Our achievements to date include:
- In April 2003, currently providing housing support services worth over £60m in funding to around 23,000 people in any one year
- Successful implementation of the Supporting People programme in April 2003 - currently providing housing support services worth over £60m in funding to around 23,000 people in any one year.
- Research relating to health and housing is now an integral part of our annual research programme.
- Development of the Homelessness Strategy and Homeless action plans.
- Adaptations in both social and private housing continue to play a significant part in enabling people to remain independent in their own homes.
- Expansion of our Community Safety Team to reflect the application of its new statutory powers to tackle anti-social behaviour.
- A community cohesion unit has been established to lead out our Good Relations Strategy.
- Since 2003 we have been very proactive in dealing with the accommodation and housing support needs of the Traveller Community in Northern Ireland.
- Through our rural policy ‘Places for People’ we are contributing to independent rural living, particularly for those more vulnerable households.
- In partnership with other agencies we are tackling fuel poverty through our heating upgrading and energy efficiency programmes.