How can Social Prescribing impact Housing?

1st June 2022

Over the coming weeks we will be publishing a series of articles on how Social Prescribing can impact various areas of policy and personal health, beginning this week with Housing.  Article 2 will see how Social Prescribing can have an impact on Finance, both personal and public, and the final article will look at Community Wellbeing and Leisure.

What is Housing?

Local Authorities are becoming increasingly aware that housing is more than just the bricks and mortar they’re built from.  Housing means a connection between a resident and their community, somewhere most people spend the majority of their day, especially over the past few years when working from home was the norm, and poor quality housing can lead to both physical and mental health issues.

It’s safe to say we’ve all gotten to know our homes a lot better over the past 2 years and for many people their home has doubled up as an office, gym, cinema and pub all rolled into one.   As we emerge from the pandemic, many of these ‘new normals’ for the home have remained, with hybrid working remaining popular for many office workers, and streaming services remaining popular for people who don’t want to go to the cinema to see the latest releases.

The Impact of Poor Quality Housing on Health

Poor quality housing can have varied and serious consequences on a person’s health, both physical and mental.  If a property is draughty or damp then it can cause serious breathing difficulties, while skin conditions like eczema can be caused by a poorly maintained property.  Meanwhile, the cladding crisis and financial strain many thousands of tenants are being put under to pay for removal of cladding they did not know was illegal when they purchased the property can cause serious mental and financial problems. 

Poorly insulated homes are also a growing concern for many people.  Not only do they have a greater impact on the environment, but they also have a direct impact on energy bills and the cost of living, which millions across the UK are finding increasingly difficult to cope with.  Poorly insulated properties are also more likely to be draughty or damp, increasing the likelihood of serious physical health problems.  While it can save money on energy bills in the long term, the up-front cost to properly insulate a property can be upwards of £10,000, which is too much for many homeowners to afford.  All major political parties do have mass-insulation programmes, but many including the Conservative Government do not have strict timeframes or eligibility criteria yet, making many homeowners increasingly anxious that their property may not be upgraded for many years while they’re continuing to live with the stress of high energy bills.

What’s in the Social Housing White Paper (2020)?

The Charter for Social Housing Residents, known as the Social Housing White Paper, was published by the Government in November 2020 and outlines 7 pillars that all social housing tenants should be provided with:

  • To be safe in your home
  • To know how your landlord is performing
  • To have your complaints dealt with promptly and fairly
  • To be treated with respect
  • To have your voice heard by your landlord
  • To have a good quality home and neighbourhood to live in
  • To be supported to take your first step to ownership

Safety in your home is key to the White Paper, with the Charter outlining plans to establish a Regulator of Social Housing which will check that landlords are keeping homes safe.  This independent regulator would have a checklist that landlords must follow to ensure their homes are safe to live in, with things like a smoke alarm and safe internal wiring becoming a compulsory requirement for social housing landlords to check.

Safe and high-quality neighbourhoods are also central to the White Paper, with the Government setting out standards around good quality green spaces near social housing estates, and a dedicated pathway to report anti-social behaviour.  In the previous section we spoke about the importance of good quality housing within the building, but neighbourhoods are equally as important to mental and physical health.  Over the past 2 years local green spaces have often been the only place to catch some fresh air and exercise outdoors, and are important not just as places to exercise, but also as community hubs for social groups to meet and children to play.  Anti-social behaviour within housing estates can also have a negative impact on mental health and make you feel unsafe within your own home, so the government’s commitment to tackle anti-social behaviour and make reporting incidences easier will hopefully contribute to reductions in crime and increase pride in the local community.

What can Elemental do to help?

Housing can be a large source of stress and mental health problems for many people across the UK.  Our social prescribing platform can offer support to both landlords and tenants by developing programmes tailored to the needs of a community, measuring impact of community investment and build capacity of social housing staff, and calculating the health and social value of alleviating health inequalities.

As we emerge from the pandemic, we need to realise the full potential of our communities.  Green spaces are great places for community groups to meet from children’s sports clubs to outdoor yoga and community fun runs, and our social prescribing programmes can help maximise this potential.  The Government’s commitment to improving living standards for social housing tenants through the Social Housing White Paper is also important to us, and we can provide assistance to local authorities and landlords of social housing through Elemental Analytics, which uses bespoke BI Dashboards to provide comprehensive data on service uptake, service impact, and community support needs in your region.

Discover more about Elemental Software:

Elemental Software, part of The Access Group, is the UK and Ireland’s leading provider of social prescribing technology. Elemental is an award-winning tech for good company with the purpose of empowering and enabling individuals, families and their carers to better connect into community-based programmes, services and interventions that make a positive impact on their lives.

Through their innovative digital platform, Elemental enables localities and regions to establish, develop and scale the social prescribing model of care. Elemental works with local councils, health and social care trusts, community and voluntary sector organisations, housing associations, prisons and education organisations, such as universities, to co-design and deliver better community and wellbeing outcomes.

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