Social landlords do a great deal more than just providing and managing accommodation.  A range of support is commonly offered to address the often significant health and wellbeing needs of their tenants – including jobs and training, learning and skills, as well as support to specifically address health needs and enable people to remain independent in their own home. A 2012 audit by The National Housing Federation identified more than 9,000 neighbourhood projects being delivered by housing associations across the country. 5 One example of such a project is described in Box 7.

Box 7:  Case study – ‘Health Begins at Home’ (Family Mosaic) 6

The ‘Health Begins at Home’ research project began in 2013, to test the effectiveness of the following two interventions in improving the health and wellbeing of tenants aged over 50:

  • signposting to health and wellbeing services by a neighbourhood manager
  • intensive personalised support from a dedicated health and wellbeing support worker (including being accompanied to relevant local services).

The study also included a control group. Across London and the south east, 547 participants were recruited to the study.

An evaluation of the service found that impacts were small for many indicators, but that both interventions resulted in lower use of NHS services by residents (especially among vulnerable and socially isolated individuals) and some improvements were made in mental wellbeing. Health behaviours such as smoking, drinking and completion of health tests, and self-reported activity and mobility levels did not change significantly however.

As Family Mosaic recognises in its final evaluation report:

“As a social housing provider, we’re in a unique position to provide this support, because of our proximity to our residents, and our existing local connections.”

The examples described above demonstrate that social landlords can (and do) play a pivotal role in improving the health outcomes and life experiences of their tenants; benefits that can now be measured in social value terms using a tool developed by the housing charity HACT. 7

Vulnerable residents in private rented accommodation do not benefit from the same support from their landlords, which acts to further entrench tenure-related inequalities. However, in a number of areas across the country, innovative projects are underway to identify these tenants and provide appropriate support to meet their health and wellbeing needs. One example of such a project is described in Box 8.

Box 8:  Case study – Healthy Homes (Knowsley Council) 8

Healthy Homes is led by Knowsley Council’s Public Health team in partnership with a number of local agencies. The service began in September 2014 and aims to take a proactive and preventative approach to tackling housing and health related issues within the borough. By facilitating access to existing support services for those currently not engaged, the initiative encourages residents to be healthier, more financially secure, able to work, and to look after themselves and their properties. In the long term, this is intended to lower demand for more reactive council and wider public services including environmental health, social care, health care, the police and fire service.

Healthy Homes targets areas of poor-quality housing and health for intervention via a team of trained advocates, who will visit every home within the area. A structured conversation is held with residents in relation to the condition of their property and a range of other issues affecting their health and wellbeing. The advocate collects information during the interview via a secure tablet computer and, where appropriate and with resident consent, will generate an automated referral to one or more local services.

By January 2015, over 3,200 homes had been visited as part of the initiative. This has resulted in over 1,100 referrals to other agencies that can provide solutions and support.  Many residents have been referred for energy efficiency advice, smoke alarms and housing issues. Evaluation of the scheme is ongoing.

References

  1. University of Birmingham, “Neighbourhood Audit 2011,” July 2012.
  2. Family Mosaic, “Health Begins at Home,” February 2016
  3. HACT, “Measuring the Social Impact of Community Investment: a guide to using the Wellbeing Valuation approach,” March 2014.
  4. National Institute for Health and Care Excellence, “Knowsley Healthy Homes Initiative,” May 2015.
  5. University of Birmingham, “Neighbourhood Audit 2011,” July 2012.
  6. Family Mosaic, “Health Begins at Home,” February 2016
  7. HACT, “Measuring the Social Impact of Community Investment: a guide to using the Wellbeing Valuation approach,” March 2014.
  8. National Institute for Health and Care Excellence, “Knowsley Healthy Homes Initiative,” May 2015.