Councillors Ed Davie and Councillor Jacqui Dyer – Cabinet Leads for Health and Adult Social Care and Councillor Paul Gadsby – Cabinet Lead for Housing blog about what the council is doing to better integrate health and housing
Research shows there are close links between poverty, social housing and poor health.
For example the poorest 20% of people are up to three times more likely to smoke and suffer from mental health distress than the richest 20%.
Obviously some of our least well off residents live in social housing and also suffer some of the poorest health. In Lambeth our poorest residents can expect to live healthily for about seven years less than their wealthier neighbours.
As a Labour Council we are committed to reducing this health gap and supporting more people to live life to its full potential regardless of how much money they earn.
Therefore it makes sense for us as a council, the largest social landlord in the borough and responsible for health and social care, to bring our services closer together and support our tenants live healthier lives.
The physical condition of housing is important for good health which is why we have invested about £500 million in recent years to bring council flats and houses up to Lambeth Housing Standard reducing damp, cold and insecure conditions.
Being homeless is obviously bad for health and we are building 1,000 new council rent homes and have invested millions in creating more of our own temporary accommodation to keep people off the streets.
Recently we banned smoking in our playgrounds and we made sure this applied to Lambeth Housing playgrounds as well as those in our parks.
We want these efforts to be the start of a concerted effort to work with residents in our social housing to improve health.
As a landlord we have lots of contact with our tenants and this should be an opportunity to offer health advice and direct people to health and social care services.
For example we have just launched a new free DrinkCoach app to support people to reduce harmful alcohol consumption and the Your Health pages on the Lambeth Council website with lots of advice and links to services. We can use our contact with tenants to offer them these free services with opportunities to quit smoking, eat more healthily, exercise, take part in community activities and receive counselling. We know not everyone has access to the internet and Lambeth’s 10 libraries, our new Civic Centre, GP and councillor surgeries continue to offer face-to-face support.
Encouraging good health choices is important but we know that those choices are influenced by a person’s circumstances and environment. If you are living in poverty the stress and lack of cash make it harder to choose the healthy meal and the exercise class. That is why we as a London Living Wage Employer are encouraging other employers to pay fairly and are committed to creating more decent jobs, training opportunities and new businesses.
Working with the local NHS we will also soon be creating Local Care Networks which aim to bring health services nearer communities and build better health and wellbeing. All residents are vital to making this work but it is a special opportunity for social housing tenants to close the health gap with some of their wealthier neighbours so that we can all get closer to fulfilling our potential.