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Better housing will mean better health

PUBLISHED: 13:08 10 April 2009 | UPDATED: 13:40 03 July 2010

Dozens of measures to improve the housing system in Norfolk will be taken after a major review of the way that poor housing affects people's health.

A study of the problems caused by overcrowded, damp or unsuitable housing found that a third of Norfolk people had problems with their home.

Dozens of measures to improve the housing system in Norfolk will be taken after a major review of the way that poor housing affects people's health.

A study of the problems caused by overcrowded, damp or unsuitable housing found that a third of Norfolk people had problems with their home. A quarter of the 8,000 people questioned said that their health was being affected by their housing, including stress caused by high fuel bills and asthma worsened by damp or dust.

Norfolk's health scrutiny committee made 41 recommendations to district and county councils and health trusts. Now 32 of them are being put into place, at least in part. They mostly relate to council or housing association housing, and also to increasing the supply of affordable and other homes.

The report has been looked at by Philip Burton, chief executive of North Norfolk District Council and the representative for improving housing for Norfolk's local area agreement, and Karen Hill, the council's head of strategic housing. They have worked with other councils and bodies and have pledged to take action.

The planned actions include:

All public sector landowners, including health trusts and councils, will be encouraged to provide affordable housing sites.

More consistent support across the county for landlords who house vulnerable people, including fast-tracking housing benefit.

Councils will try to maximise homes available, including converting commercial space and bringing flats above shops into use.

A register of housing which is suitable for disabled people.

Promote the services of the Home Improvement Agency, to help owners who need help maintaining their homes to prevent ill health.

Possibly giving more priority when allocating housing to having family nearby, which can improve health and allow support during a crisis.

Efforts will also be made for housing and health services to work more closely together, potentially including the involvement of health and social care in licensing houses of multiple occupation (homes which are shared by people who are not related), and consulting each other over changes to services. A one-stop shop to help staff communicate with staff in other services is being considered, along the lines of Suffolk's Homeshield service.

But there is no action on a recommendation for a single county-wide housing telephone number or housing register, which will both have to wait until after the local government reorganisation. A suggestion that the key housing worker should be noted on medical records, so they can be informed if there are health changes which affect housing needs, is also not being taken up.

The plans will be discussed at Norfolk's health scrutiny meeting next Thursday.


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