Housing affordability and availability will continue to pose significant local challenges for the foreseeable future in Hackney and the City, driven largely by regional, national and international influences beyond local control.  However, there are significant opportunities for health and housing professionals to work closer together to improve outcomes for local residents.

Staff working across the housing sector are key players in the public health ‘wider workforce’, and there are significant opportunities for greater reach into communities to address their health and wellbeing needs through closer working with housing associations. 1 This links closely to the concept of ‘making every contact count’, which aims to ensure that all public sector partners are able to identify and support the health and wellbeing of their clients (through signposting and/or brief advice).

Now that Public Health teams are positioned in local authorities, the scope to further embed public health thinking in the work of social housing staff and those teams supporting private sector housing residents is greatly enhanced. Hackney’s Public Health Team is already working closely with housing colleagues to identify opportunities to better support vulnerable tenants (in both the social and private rented sector) to improve their health and wellbeing.

A promising approach to housing support, in the context of reducing budgets and welfare safety net, is the Housing First Model – developed in New York and being implemented by many service providers across the US and increasingly in Europe. 2 This is a model of permanent supported housing, based on the premise that a homeless individual or household’s first and primary need is to obtain stable housing, and that other issues affecting the household can and should be addressed once this housing need has been met. This contrasts with many other programmes which operate from a model of ‘housing readiness’- that is, that an individual or household must address other issues that may have led to an episode of homelessness first before being granted access to housing. Housing First is being considered in Hackney as part of a wider review of the single homeless supported living service.

References

  1. Royal Society of Public Health, “Rethinking the Public Health Workforce,” 2015.
  2. Shelter, “Housing First – a Good Practice Briefing,” November 2008.