People with mental health problems, MPs, representatives from local Minds and the social housing sector came together to discuss mental health and housing at a parliamentary reception on Tuesday 5 February. Organised by mental health charity Mind, the event took place in Westminster with the aim of kick-starting conversations to make sure the rights of people with mental health problems are firmly on the housing agenda.
Attendees travelled from across the country to share their views on how social housing can support and maintain people’s mental health. Speakers included Jackie Doyle-Price MP, Parliamentary Under Secretary of State for Mental Health, Terrie Alafat, Chief Executive, Chartered Institute of Housing, and John Healey MP, Shadow Secretary of State for Housing.
The event saw the launch of a short film ‘Beyond Bricks’ by Mind in which three people with mental health problems - Nadia, Gabbi and Sarah – describe the serious impact poor housing can have on our mental health, experiences back up by new research.
The research, from Understanding Society, funded by the Economic Social Research Council, found that people living in both the social rented sector and private rented sector are significantly more likely to have experience of poor mental health than home owners.
The research, from a seven-year study of over 40,000 households, found that those in the social and private rented sector had a higher risk of mental health problems compared to those who are home owners. People living in the social rented sector had a 4 per cent higher risk of experiencing mental health problems, while those in the private rented sector had a 2 per cent higher risk of having mental health problems.
Social housing was introduced with the aim of providing affordable, quality housing to those of us who might be struggling with issues like health and finances, and is usually provided by local authorities or non-profit organisations. Despite this, previous research by Mind found more than two in five (43 per cent) people with mental health problems living in social housing have seen their mental health deteriorate as a result of where they live.
Mind brought together people living in social housing, including Gabbi and Nadia from the film, to discuss with parliamentarians how their mental health has been impacted by their housing situation. Attendees shared potential solutions to issues they have been facing, some of which could potentially be rolled out across the country, in order to improve people’s experiences of social housing across the board.
Ken Sanderson, Chief Executive of SECE Mind, said:
“South East and Central Essex Mind has seen a direct link between poor mental health and homelessness or a risk of homelessness. For over 40 years we have s been delivering supported housing as a means of moving back into independent living. In 2017/18 we provide this help for 57 people. This year we are planning a similar service for people in Chelmsford in cooperation with Chelmsford City Council because there is a clearly identified need. We have believed for a long time that to move on and receive positive mental health support and guidance fundamental issues such as a safe place to live and enough food to eat are primary. Because we believe high quality housing is a need we have spent money refurbishing our homes and offering our tenants safe, modern homes with any support they need to move on into independent living and this is proving to be more and more successful. We believe good housing is a fundamental right for all.”