The link between health and housing is nothing new, local authorities have been trying to manage it for years.
It goes right back to a theory many of us know - Maslow’s hierarchy of needs. Among the basic needs for humans are shelter (a home) and health, and they must be met for people to fulfil their needs.
As a housing provider, we are providing basic needs to our residents. However, this is being impacted by the constant change in regulatory demands, cost of living crisis, increasing expectations and lack of financial support.
Many of the people who work in housing are passionate, hardworking and thoughtful who do their best with the resources and support they have. They are often managing complex and high-risk situations with reduced professional support.
The lack of funding and resources for public sector bodies and statutory functions are impacting more than ever before. Social care pathways, mental health pathways, health services and safeguarding teams are overwhelmed and at capacity.
Housing Associations who are increasingly called on to support residents affected by the decline in welfare services, are themselves finding their support networks stretched due to increased regulatory and legislative demands, rising costs and an inflexible rent and grant funding regime.
This is why we welcome the latest HOS report which throws a spotlight on the challenges we face.
A relationship of equals
On top of requiring the advanced training that will allow our officers to better understand the complex needs of residents and have the skills to support people experiencing them, we also need a multi-agency approach to achieve the right outcomes.
Too often I find that ‘housing’ is not seen as a core agency to involve in any complex needs assessments, so we need to change the narrative to support this ambition and break down the cultural and professional barriers that currently hinder this.
I have always believed that a housing provider should look to create teams which encompass the ethos of social care and health as we can’t provide a home to vulnerable people without having a workforce that understand them. By having dedicated teams to focus on this work and by increasing the support available to housing officers, we can work together with other agencies to better meet the needs of residents.
Throughout my career in housing, I have had heard many of my colleagues say : 'I don’t know who I am going to be today the social worker, counsellor, support worker or police officer.'
I hope this report is the turning point for a strong and supportive multi-agency approach, with clearer definitions and systems that are easy to navigate for all.
The government must review this report and all its recommendations in order that housing associations can deliver the much needed homes and expanded support services.
If we gain the necessary political and financial support, then alongside the other agents responsible for residents health and welfare – the social housing sector can act positively on the report’s recommendations.