Housing and health

Wednesday 19th of October 2016

People who work in community engagement and community support are becoming an important part of the ‘public health workforce’. This article gives a nice opportunity to celebrate what some of Tpas members are doing to help protect or improve residents’ health.

Healthy eating and weight loss programmes, health checks and opportunities for physical exercise look to improve physical health; and opportunities for social contact and volunteering focus on improving mental health. Falls prevention schemes aim to reduce both physical and mental effects of injury. Such services can reach children, working age and older people, and they can also be delivered in partnership with residents.

Swan Housing helps to increase uptake of NHS Health MOTs and focus them on people most likely to benefit from a cardiovascular check. They work proactively to promote the service to particular tenants and run an appointments system using Swan’s own knowledge and records. Community Development Officer Terry Webb says “using a bit of staff time and some postage we have created a win-win for everyone”.

At Walsall Housing Group tenants and residents work alongside staff to run their wide range of health activities. Community volunteers encourage participation in programmes and support delivery of sessions. Having a community advocate increases take-up and benefits the volunteer’s confidence and self-esteem too.

Not everything happens in community venues. Radian’s Wellbeing Wagon takes health advice and sessions directly to people, looking to improve engagement with people who are reluctant to participate or have difficulty getting to venue-based activities.

And it’s not just for general needs tenants. Trident Reach runs healthy eating workshops with homeless people, helping to improve physical and mental health. They’re oversubscribed and they work. Rafaaq Ahmed, a participant, said “I live on my own now and have continued to cook healthy things. I have the confidence to do this. I feel better and have lost weight since changing my diet.”

Nor is it only about services for people. Regeneration schemes offer a great opportunity to work with existing residents to design out pollution, fear, anxiety and loneliness; and design in active travel and green space for leisure.  Camden Council’s Community Investment Programme shows how community engagement can inform how housing-led regeneration can improve health locally.

Tpas always says that landlords should try to assess the impact of their community engagement activities. Social accounts and social value assessments, such as those produced by St Ledger Homes and Affinity Sutton, offer robust methodology for assessing health activities undertaken. Cuts to council funding, rent and housing benefit create uncertainties for this sort of activity, but we think the benefits of investment speak for themselves. We will continue to champion them. 

Rethink Mental Illness was Tpas’ chosen charity for our 2016 awards and we raised over £2000 to support their work on mental wellbeing. Information on their services is available at: https://www.rethink.org/


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