Housing

New partnership supporting homeless people into long term housing gets started this month

New partnership supporting homeless people into long term housing gets started this month

12 November 2019

Kineara is partnering with Cromwood Housing and Bexley Council to deliver a five year project supporting single people in temporary accommodation (TA) in the borough with private accommodation and additional holistic support to break the cycle of homelessness.

The ambitious project, called Opening Doors, aims to tackle the cycle of homelessness by providing flexible mid-to-long term support to access and sustain private accommodation, alongside the provision of private housing ready for people to move into.

Bexley has seen a significant rise in homelessness and TA across the borough in the last 5 years, with an expected 1,600 people living in TA in the borough by the end of 2019, putting increasing pressure on Council budgets. In addition, loss of private accommodation is now the single most cited reason for homelessness, reflecting trends across London and across the country.

Resettling

Kineara’s holistic and tailored programme, called Resettling, will provide wellbeing, therapeutic and practical support, including accessing work and training opportunities, exploring and addressing personal and social barriers, mentoring, support with managing tenancies and finances, and more.

This is the first project in which Kineara has the opportunity to support people on a journey from homelessness into sustained housing with an accommodation offer included, having developed and delivered eviction prevention and tenancy sustainment interventions with housing associations across east London for the last 7 years (find out more about RSP, RSP+ and Reframe).

Maria Morgan, director and founder of Kineara, said:

“Kineara is super excited that Bexley Council have welcomed us into the borough to service the residents of Bexley. We have been given a great opportunity alongside Cromwood Housing to support people living in temporary accommodation into secure housing. The programme is designed to ensure that any issues preventing a person sustaining their tenancy is acknowledged and addressed. Partnership is an integral part of our work with people, the local community and the service surrounding the community, and we look forward to working alongside the people and services of Bexley.”

To find out more about the project, click here or visit Bexley Council’s webpage about the programme.

For any enquiries about the project, contact openingdoors@bexley.gov.uk

Posted by kineara
Practitioner insight: How complex cases can impact our mental health and wellbeing

Practitioner insight: How complex cases can impact our mental health and wellbeing

29 October 2019

Operating within frontline roles, our practitioners work directly with individuals and families experiencing mental health problems and/or multi-complex needs. Following World Mental Health Day, we ask our practitioners to share experiences relating to mental health and wellbeing at work, including the impact of working on intense cases and proven ways to support their own mental health and wellbeing.

There is a strong link between our mental and physical health and just like our physical health, our mental health needs looking after. Research indicates that one in four of us will experience some form of mental ill health in the course of a year. What’s more, MHFA believes mental health lies on a continuum, which like a spectrum, can change overtime depending on early identification, prevention and treatment.

Having delivered a range of specialist programmes that address key barriers to housing security, employment and education, our practitioners understand the importance of providing appropriate support to people experiencing mental ill health as part of their person-centred, holistic approach. However, we often forget that support professionals – be it, social workers, health professionals or support workers – who provide vital support to others, can also be affected by the intensity of the cases they work with.

Multi-complex needs and intense support

Rujia, our dedicated school-based practitioner, explains how the complex nature and intensity of certain cases means that some personal impact is almost inevitable: “In general, I think when working in this field it is difficult not to be impacted by other people’s circumstances because of the compassion we feel for others.”

“Previously, I worked with someone from our drop-in sessions who needed emotional support on an issue I have experienced myself. I felt a lot of empathy for this client and instantly found myself checking whether I am over-identifying with what she is saying and how best I can help her.”

“It’s important to reflect on our feelings and emotions and check where our responses are coming from to ensure our focus is the client. Being aware of our feelings also helps us to recognise the impact clients can have on us as it can trigger emotions in us that we then need to work through.”

Liz, our NLP practitioner echoes this: “In relation to the type of work that we do my first instinct is to support those who need support the most. Even when I feel like my cup is half empty, I find myself still pouring from my cup because I feel like someone else needs it more.”

Whilst drawing from experience and tapping into our positive traits can offer insight when dealing with cases, it’s important to check what impact a client’s situation is having on us, adds Rujia. “It’s very important to be mindful of whether we are over-identifying because that could make us move away from fully recognising what the client needs. We have to remember that everyone is different and therefore may experience things differently and need different things.”

A reflective approachA reflective approach

As a practitioner, Rujia highlights the importance of reflecting on our own feelings and emotions and check where our responses are coming from: “This ensures our focus is the client. Being aware of our feelings is also very important so we can recognise the impact clients have on us, as it can trigger emotions in us that we then need to work through,” she says.

“Sometimes even when I’m not working, I am thinking about the family and what else I need to do to support them! This can become unhealthy because it can become mentally and physically draining and we all need our break away from work and spend some time in our personal lives,” explains Rujia.

Fortunately, this is something Rujia recognised during a de-briefing session with a colleague: “Upon reflection, I was able to identify why I was feeling so tired. I then had to consciously make the effort to put some healthy boundaries in place by agreeing what goals I can work on with the family, as well as sticking to my working hours unless working evenings was planned for a specific reason. The families we work with often have multiple issues and we are working with for a limited time period, so having boundaries helps me work more effectively and not spread myself too thinly.”

“The families we work with often have multiple issues and we are working with for a limited time period, so having boundaries helps me work more effectively and not spread myself too thinly.”

The impact of mental health has huge social and economic costs; studies reveal the total economic cost in England is estimated at £105 billion per year and that 84 percent of UK line managers believe they are responsible for employee wellbeing, but only 24 percent have received relevant training. “It’s that energy and love which is fine but I think if you start to feel like it’s affecting you outside of the workplace it will affect the amount of time you spend at work,” says Liz, “I’ve learnt to lean on some of the support of my manager and team, especially if I feel like I’m having a day where there are a lot of intense cases or I just need some support.”

Mental health in the workplace

When it comes to looking after our mental health in the workplace, Liz and Rujia have found peer supervision particularly helpful. “It’s an opportunity to reflect on my work and the impact of the work on my own well-being and the importance of our own well-being in this field of work. Having a supportive supervisor who understands the impact of working with intense and complex cases is very important, not just for our own wellbeing but the wellbeing of the families we support,” says Rujia.

Reflecting on past cases, Liz adds: “In supervision, we can talk through difficult cases and dissect the different barriers and/or the crisis that individual is experiencing. In that space you kind of offload everything going on at work or personal life.”

“One thing we learnt was the Mental Health Continuum – that our place on the scale is constantly changing and that most of the time there are no absolutes in mental health.”

Mental health in the workplaceSince completing the MHFA training, Tam, Comms Officer at Kineara, believes that she is better equipped to offer a listening ear and support to our team of practitioners, and more aware of what signs to look out for. “I now understand how and why dealing with complex and intense cases can impact the wellbeing of our support practitioners. One of the most important things we learned was the Mental Health Continuum – that our place on the scale is constantly changing and that most of the time there are no absolutes in mental health. Sometimes it’s just taking the time to check in, ask twice and listen.”

The power of mediation

Despite the intense workload, our practitioners are passionate about the work they do. “Once I started seeing work as helping anyone in need which could even be myself, then I started seeing work/life balance as one thing. Supporting people and practicing self-love is part and parcel of who am, so I don’t really see it as I’m leaving work on the coat hanger and going home, I see it as just a part of me,” says Liz.

Crucially, both Rujia and Liz highlight the importance of looking after our own wellbeing to be able to give their best to the people and families they support and be emotionally available for them. “I spend some time over the weekends when I am not working to do something relaxing, this can be something as simple as having a long bath or going out for dinner with a friend,” says Rujia. “This allows me to support people in any capacity in any way I can, even in my community/block or within my family – it doesn’t stop at work! It’s like a way of life – when you see it as a way of life you see beyond the crisis or the issue and you see the person for who they are,” adds Liz.

“Having someone facilitate our thoughts that are there but just need writing down on paper, so it’s seen and heard. Everyone needs encouragement and mediation, nobody can function without the support from another, including us as practitioners!”

Liz adds that practicing self-awareness to inspire the best in herself and others is so important: “I believe everyone is an expert in their own life, they are the only person who has experienced what they are telling you in entirety and full context, so the most important thing is to listen because every situation is a new situation and may require a new way of approaching things. Once they tell you their stories and their journey you realise that anyone could be in that position.”

She adds: “That’s why mediation is so important; having someone facilitate our thoughts that are there but just need writing down on paper, so it’s seen and heard. Everyone needs encouragement and mediation, nobody can function without the support from another, including us as practitioners!”

Find out more about our work. 

Image credit: Mashable/Vicky Leta

Posted by kineara in Community, Latest
How to support your child as they start secondary school

How to support your child as they start secondary school

17 September 2019

Starting secondary is a significant milestone in a young person’s life – new schools, new friends, new teachers and indeed new challenges altogether. Whether you’re a parent, teacher or practitioner, helping a young person through this transition can be one of the most impactful things you do for them. But how can we support them? Here our practitioners, team and friends share practical ways we can help pupils deal with such challenges.

1. Developing an identity

Fitting in, asserting an identity or gaining peer acceptance becomes even more prominent in a secondary school context. This undeniable reality can often lead to a dip in academic progress or intensify challenging behaviour.

“My challenge at school was a struggle between being a good student and getting the grades everyone (including myself) expected of me and wanting to be independent and assert my identity; who I wanted to be in this world and who my friends were,” says Sandra, Intervention Practitioner at Kineara.

Helping young people to express themselves authentically and take advantage of extracurricular activities is just one way of facilitating healthy social exploration. Sandra adds that it’s also important for parents and teachers to try to understand why someone is behaving the way they are instead of just trying to change it.

“Larger classes make it more difficult to have a closer relationship with students, which is where a service like Motivate to Educate (M2E) is helpful. It offers a listening ear and can help guide a student back on track,” she adds.

2. Bullying and peer pressure

Whether its physical, verbal, social, or online, bullying can take many forms. For parents, identifying any changes in your child’s behaviour, asking questions, and building meaningful relationships with their teachers can all make a difference.

Strengthening relationships between the parent and child, parent and teacher, and teacher and child, is one aim of M2E. “I was lucky that I had a good upbringing with parents who gave me a strong sense of self-worth that made me realise my potential. Without it I may have ended up in more serious trouble that would have been harder to return from,” says Sandra.

During the transition, it can be helpful to try to increase your child’s circle of friends by encouraging them to invite home their friends or participate in group activities. Educating pupils and their parents through assemblies, class discussions and workshops can also help to challenge stigma and raise awareness about the challenges that pupils are facing.

“Larger classes make it more difficult to have a closer relationship with students, which is where a service like Motivate to Educate (M2E) is helpful. It offers a listening ear and can help guide a student back on track.”

Reflecting on her own experience, Mel, Comms Lead at Kineara, highlights the importance of having quality support. “For me the main thing was going from a very small school where everyone knew each other to a school with hundreds of kids in each year; this was a bit intimidating at first! The key thing for me was that I had a close-knit group of friends that formed pretty early; they were my peers who I went to for support and we took each other through the whole secondary journey.”

“For pupils who are feeling shy or lonely, we often involve their peers by bringing them into our sessions to participate in group activities such as cooking and baking, which develops the child’s confidence and broadens their friendship circle,” says Gail, Kineara’s M2E lead.

3. Mental health and wellbeing

With 1 in 10 children and young people experiencing a mental health issue at any one time, it is important that we are clued up on the challenges of dealing with mental health, and how we as parents, teachers and practitioners can support pupils. What’s more, a recent Government Green Paper (2017) stated that appropriately trained teachers and school staff can make a difference in addressing mild to moderate mental health problems such as anxiety and conduct disorder, comparable to those achieved by trained therapists.

In delivering M2E, we’ve found that teachers and school staff can support pupils by  developing their understanding of mental health through relevant training such as MHFA courses, as well as receiving support with their own wellbeing. We have also seen how a school benefits from adopting a joined-up, wraparound ethos that focuses on wellbeing just as much as academic outcomes. As part of the culture, schools could consider activities that have been proven to help pupils manage high levels of stress such as mindfulness, yoga and relaxation/breathing exercises.

The people we work with have multi-entrenched needs, so our support must be intentional, therapeutic, adaptable. You’re not seeing a situation or a person as one-dimensional but seeing them in a holistic frame.”

After taking part in M2E, one pupil who was struggling to manage his temper said about the programme: “I enjoy having better relationships with people in school. I use my breathing techniques when someone is annoying me, and I listen to my relaxation before bed and no tech for one hour which helps my sleep.” In this case we found the main outcomes to be significant improvements in the pupils’ overall stress and behaviour, followed by an improvement in concentration and emotional awareness.

There are a plethora of online resources exploring different areas of mental health and wellbeing, from exam stress, eating disorders to responding to traumatic events. We have also written about the real impact of exam stress and why schools need to  focus on supporting mental health during this difficult time.

4. Hidden or complex challenges

For some, personal, hidden, or external challenges will take a toll on social and academic progress through secondary school, including the impact of educational inequality, a lack of adequate support for SEND pupils, family breakdown, or issues with housing. One way of supporting pupils through such a challenge is looking at the ‘whole-person,’ offering empathy and being emotionally available.

“The people we work with have multi-entrenched needs, so our support has to be intentional, therapeutic, adaptable,” says Maria, “When you’re talking to someone, it helps to see that person as a system – in that system is a person, their needs, background, parentage, education etc. You’re not seeing a situation or a person as one-dimensional but seeing them in a holistic frame.”

Maria explains that not everyone offers holistic support, neither does everyone have to.” As a school, for example, it’s about recognising that there are other organisations that can support with intervention on a holistic level. It’s about partnership,” she says.

Learn more about our education services.

Posted by kineara in Education, Impact, Research
New focus group results reveal more is needed to support vulnerable tenants in the private sector

New focus group results reveal more is needed to support vulnerable tenants in the private sector

3 September 2019

Here we report the findings from our recent private landlords’ focus group conducted in July, made up of five landlords with differing experiences and backgrounds.

Participants indicated letting properties across England, from Hackney, Fulham, Wandsworth, Cheshire, Dover/Deal/Sandwich, Cardiff and Barnet.

The challenges faced by landlords varied from helping tenants or dealing with tenant issues, dealing with local authorities to having to pay extra stamp duty on their properties. Interestingly, for the same landlord, helping tenants was also the most rewarding aspect of being a landlord, whilst others enjoyed the financial benefits and the satisfaction of sourcing and refurbishing property for rental.

Reflecting on their relationships with their tenants and the local councils, 80% of participants said councils do not provide adequate support for their tenants, however, one landlord differed, “For me, in my experience of being a landlord in Wales, the council are very interactive with landlords and hold meetings in different boroughs.” As for relationships with tenants, 20% dealt entirely with their tenants from the start, whilst 40% used or continue to use a letting agent to manage the properties.

Speaking on pursuing evictions during the last 12 months, 40% of landlords surveyed said the principle reason was due to rent arrears. One landlord said, “I worked with my tenants but had to send them a section 8 Notice to protect myself. They are still in the property and have now paid back all the arrears. I also delayed a rental increase for another year to help them, even though I was losing money due to inflation!”

Asked what a support service might look like, one landlord said that a wellbeing support service sounded good in theory, but in practice they weren’t sure if it would have prevented the eviction.  Further, 80% of respondents believed that financial support and mediation would potentially prevent evictions, however, the support would have to be tailored to the individual situation.

This reinforces the idea behind the holistic nature of Kineara’s housing support services, which includes advice, guidance and advocacy for all families and individuals we work with on matters of housing, including rent arrears, eviction threats, conditions in the home and more.

The intensive support offers practical, financial, wellbeing and therapeutic support for tenants, as well as strengthening the relationships between tenant and landlord, if needed, and connecting landlords to services that can avoid the costs of eviction while putting resources towards the wellbeing of their tenants.

Find out more about our RSP+ and housing support services.

Posted by kineara in Housing, Research
How self-determination can impact wellbeing

How self-determination can impact wellbeing

25 July 2019

From poverty to income inequality, and rising mental health concerns to the housing crisis, many of the core challenges we face today stem from an economic system that maintains inequality and often hits the most vulnerable hardest. However, studies show that feeling engaged and in control of our lives can elevate our wellbeing and development, despite our circumstances.  

Self-determination, which refers to the process by which a person feels in control and empowered over their own life, can significantly improve mental health and wellbeing, according to growing research.

Psychologists posit that self-determination can lead to more positive, sustainable outcomes, including in mental health and emotional wellbeing, resilience, and healthy social and psychological development. In fact, the capacity to make the right decisions for one’s wellbeing and feeling empowered to do so, can result in people leading longer, healthier and happier lives.

Alternatively, feeling a continued lack of self-control and uncertainty in our lives can have far-reaching consequences for our mental health and wellbeing, from the way we respond to and address challenges in our lives, to how we operate in our community and broader society.

At the individual level, people who feel they have lower control over their day-to-day lives are more likely to experience a chronic stress response; their ability to cope suffers and feelings of insecurity about the world often heighten.  This stress response can lead to poorer mental and physical health, which are experienced at a greater rate by disadvantaged and vulnerable communities.

Although the link between poorer health and socio-economic factors such as low income and educational inequality is well established, the ‘perceived’ lack of control on a micro or individual level, can too, lead to feelings of disempowerment, and in turn, poorer wellbeing outcomes. This is often marked by poorer mental health including depression and anxiety, which in turn, influences health damaging choices like smoking or increased alcohol consumption. Studies suggest that those who exercise control over their lives and make decisions in their best interest, even small day-to-day decisions, are more likely to cope better through stressful situations.

The impact of poverty and structural inequalities

A recent report by George Bangham at the Resolution Foundation suggests there’s more to life than economics, but that it still really matters. Crucially, the report identifies the need for safety, security and stability, particularly in housing and employment.

Bangham presents several examples highlighting the need for security in life, including housing tenure being strongly associated with higher wellbeing and that whilst a job may increase wellbeing, the well-being drop from losing a job is bigger than the wellbeing gain from getting into work.

Among its findings the report concludes: “The best prospects for policymakers targeting future increases in national wellbeing lie in raising job quality, raising incomes, particularly at the lower end, and policies to improve security in the housing market.”

Further studies show that poverty– which today may likely include continued low income and in-work poverty levels – has an impact on the brain and its development due to chronic stress causing toxicity. This, in turn, can impact decision making and cause a perceived lack of control over one’s life.

Notably, those who feel they have little control over their circumstances tend to find greater outer rewards in money and grades, while those who feel in control are motivated more by the inner sense of mastery and satisfaction, according to psychologist Richard deCharm. This highlights the causal nexus between poverty and a perceived lack of control, and those with a perceived lack of control finding greater reward in external conditions such as job and housing security or higher income.

Developing self-determination

With the proportion of people experiencing ‘deep poverty’ in London having increased in recent years and many workers still trapped in precarious jobs and insecure housing, we believe developing resilience and self-determination to address and work through the daily challenges is more important than ever.

Whilst there are things that we can’t change immediately like the socioeconomic context in which we live, there are things we can change. By focusing on what we can change including our responses to situations and the decisions we make, we can support our own wellbeing and positively impact those around us.

Having the right support is also key. Studies have demonstrated that having close friends and family has far-reaching benefits for your mental and physical health, whilst social isolation are loneliness lead to a greater risk of poorer mental health and wellbeing. On a broader level, while policy changes are essential, it is also important that vulnerable people have access to the right support. Findings from a landlords’ focus group conducted by Kineara, found that 80% of landlords believe their tenants would benefit from financial support and mediation, and 60% say their local council does not provide, or could provide further adequate support for tenants.

Holistic practice means understanding how these things intersect; using a holistic, strength-based, person-centred support enables Kineara’s practitioners to meet the needs of the individual or family and build on their strengths to maintain positive outcomes. By working 1:1 starting with where people are and working towards goals that individuals and families choose and aspire to achieve themselves, the tailored approach recognises the importance of strengthening the individual, the family unit and the community, whilst also taking their socio-economic situation into consideration.

Director of Kineara, Maria Morgan, adds: “We know that homelessness can affect someone’s mental health, we know that poverty can affect someone’s mental health, we understand that. So, it’s important for us to recognise those things because it can be a barrier for someone moving on, finding a job, it can be a barrier in so many ways. There’s nothing stronger than recognising and accepting where you are to move forward.”

Developing a level of self-determination is vital for self-development. Being able to guide the course of your life, despite the circumstances, takes focus, proactivity, self-confidence and a willingness to work through adversity. Recognising that you and only you have the power to change where you are in life: mentally, emotionally and practically, is a constant pursuit and a powerful tool for change.

Posted by kineara in Community, Latest, Research
Selected as a member of the London Housing Panel!

Selected as a member of the London Housing Panel!

30 May 2019

We are excited to announce that we’ve been selected to be a member of the London Housing Panel, which will bring together voluntary and community-led organisations to engage with housing issues facing London.

Delivered by Trust for London and the Mayor of London, panel members will come together to explore a wide range of housing issues and perspectives from homelessness to the private rented sector, low-income Londoners to social housing; and to help influence policy pledges and priorities.

The panel is comprised of 15 London-based organisations – from homelessness to equalities groups – providing services, representation or carrying out advocacy work in relation to housing. These include Generation Rent, Homeless link, Solace Women’s Aid and other important members.

Director of panel member Kineara, Maria Morgan, said: “We are very excited to be part of this important new initiative, which brings community representation into housing policy decision making. We look forward to working with the London Housing Panel and the Mayor towards inclusive housing policies for all Londoners.”

As we’ve delivered our housing services, our core focus has been in supporting vulnerable people to sustain tenancies and avoid eviction. Through holistic and tailored support, our experienced practitioners work closely with families and individuals facing challenges times and/or with multi-complex needs. We’ve recently launched our new Rent Support Programme Plus (RSP+), based on our proven model of holistic and intensive practice that has seen a 92% success rate of preventing evictions for social housing tenants – find out more about our work and impact on our website.

We are looking forward to sharing our experiences within housing and working collaboratively with other organisations on housing related issues. As an organisation, one of our aims is to influence wider policy on housing, welfare and other social issues that impact the communities we work with; we believe this is a great opportunity for us to help influence policy pledges and priorities by providing our expertise.

Read the full press release.

Find out more about our housing services.

Posted by kineara in Community, Housing, Latest, 0 comments
How housing affects our health

How housing affects our health

Rujia first visited Kerri in her home last October, when she arranged to meet her family to talk about how she could support Kerri into work. Kerri’s landlord had referred her to Kineara’s intensive employment support programme as she had been out of work since suffering a stroke in 2006. With 3 children and unable to work, she struggled to cover costs for the family.

When Rujia entered the flat, though, it was not Kerri who greeted her first. Instead, the first thing that she noticed was the thick, stale and acrid smell of mould and damp that had filled the air inside the small two bedroom flat.

For several months, mould had been growing on the bathroom wall and had begun creeping through the shared walls with the children’s bedroom. Fungus had started to form in the corners, leaving the air thick and making it difficult to breathe. In the living room, cracks in the walls meant that water streamed down the paint onto the carpet, leaving the whole room cold, damp and unliveable. And yet, living with these conditions was, Kerri believed, the only option.

How our home affects our health

Since Kineara began delivering housing support services, we’ve witnessed housing conditions facing many social and private tenants that were simply unfit for habitation. Damp and mould are common problems in older housing where ventilation is poor, and the issue is particularly prevalent in the private sector where a third of properties do not meet basic health and safety standards. The standard covers more than damp and mould however, and includes issues of warmth and structural safety, infestations, having the right facilities and overcrowding.

For families living in the most deprived neighbourhoods, poor quality housing is taking its toll on both physical and mental health. The National Housing Federation estimates that the health effects of poor housing is costing up to £2 billion per year in treatment. Poor conditions can lead to a host of health concerns, from asthma, wheezing, headaches and respiratory illness caused by damp and mould, to tuberculosis and meningitis which spread far more easily in overcrowded conditions. Hazards, fire and accidents are also more common in poorly built and maintained homes, and are more likely to happen in more deprived neighbourhoods. Poor housing can impact long term health too, increasing the risk of long term illness or disability by 25% during childhood.

Mental health and housing insecurity

It is not just the conditions of a home, however, that can have a negative impact on a person’s health. Housing insecurity, risks of homelessness and evictions, or unaffordable housing costs have all been shown to impact mental health in acute ways, especially when we consider how housing connects to a person or family’s financial stability. In the UK, an additional 3.1 million people are in poverty once housing costs have been paid, with one million of those being in London. In the private rented sector, 18% of tenants are in poverty before housing costs are paid; this figure increases to 38% once housing costs are paid. In part this is because rental prices have risen far more quickly and far higher than wages. In over half on English districts, rents reach a third of local average full time pay; this increased to more than half average full time pay In London. And when you are living in the midst of the stress caused by poverty, it is much more of a challenge to make healthy choices and get access to adequate healthcare. High housing costs can also prevent families from meeting their basic needs, such as energy bills or buying enough and healthy food, which in turn worsens ill health.

Lastly, there is also an important connection between mental health and debt, such as rent arrears. Shelter’s 2017 nationwide survey found that 1 in 5 adults have suffered mental health issues (depression, anxiety, stress, sleeping problems) in the last 5 years due to housing problems, many of whom sought support from local GPs. In this study, the most frequently cited reason for mental ill health was lack of affordability.

Prioritising a healthy home

For Rujia, it was immediately clear that to support Kerri back into to work that was not only suitable for her time and capacity as a mother and build her aspirations, but that the damp and mould in her home were cleaned up as a matter of urgency. Rujia raised the issue with Kerri’s landlord, Southern Housing Group, advocating for repairs to be taken out in the flat. The family have been moved into temporary accommodation while the work takes place. She made sure that Kerri and her children were all registered with the local GP. For Kerri, it was the first step in making sure that her and her family’s health and wellbeing was a priority.

Our housing support

At Kineara, all our support services include housing support. We offer advice, guidance, and advocacy for all families and individuals we work with on matters of housing, including rent arrears, eviction threats, conditions in the home and more. We know that for anyone to lead a happy, healthy life, having a secure home to rest your head and spend time with family and loved ones, it is the most important thing.

To find out more about our housing support, contact us or read more about how we have supported others.

Posted by kineara in Community, Employment, Housing, Latest
Bad housing makes us sick – and what we can do about it

Bad housing makes us sick – and what we can do about it

 

We attended a recent conference in London exploring how housing effects our health, and how we can come together to fix the broken system. Our practitioner Sandra Axell reports back.

‘Bad housing makes us sick’ was a housing conference put together by Homes for All, Doctors Unite and Unite Housing Workers in London last Saturday. More than 100 people, including housing campaigners, doctors and health workers, trade union members and tenant representatives came together to share ideas and inspire new action plans. The brilliant guest speakers gave us all food for thought and below we share a summary of the topics that were discussed.

How the financialisation of housing is a global crisis

Raquel Rolnik, professor of urban planning at University of Sao Paulo, suggests that housing has moved on from being a valued

Raquel Rolnik

as a human right to being viewed as a commodity that is financially motivated. In the 1980’s both Thatcher in the UK and Regan in the US introduced schemes to sell off houses in public ownership; in the UK the ‘Right to Buy’ scheme gave council tenants an opportunity to buy their home, but as more and more housing has gone into private hands new social housing has not been built, leading to many countries having a rental market that has become a ‘finance playground’.

Watch Raquel Rolnik’s speech here.

Journalist Dawn Foster, who writes for the Guardian newspaper among others, highlighted that the Conservative Government’s recent ‘Help to Buy’ scheme, which was also put in place to encourage more home ownership, has been hijacked by large house building companies have used government subsidies to pay out big bonuses rather than lowering the house prices. Research show that the market prices was pushed up with as much as the government discount paid out, meaning that essentially, rather than make house prices more affordable, the cost has remained the same for the buyer and the profit has gone to the house builders.

In addition, the gap between rent and wages are growing. According to Shelter, between 2011 and 2017 the average rent increased by 16% nationally while wages only increased by 10%. But there are exceptions where the divide is much larger. In Barking and Dagenham, the wages in the same period only went up by 2%, but rents increased by 40%. The new benefits cap of £20,000 a year means that 97% of 2-bedroom properties on the privately rented market are unaffordable.

Dawn Foster

The panelists agreed that it is time to begin viewing housing as a human right again, and that to provide stable and secure housing for families, we should be focused on building more social housing and introducing rent controls. This is not only the ethical approach, but an affordable one: When the government invests in building social housing for everyone, in about 5-10 years the dwelling has paid for itself and the tenants rent payments go back into the accounts of local authorities, instead of to private landlords. Meanwhile, rent controls and longer tenancies within the private sector offers security to both landlords and renters, and prevents bigger landlords using the market as an investment and pushing up prices. This supports smaller landlords who have homes to rent and need the security of long term rent payments and tenancies.

Health in housing

Dr Jackie Applebee from Doctors Unite spoke about how bad housing is affecting health. Studies have suggested that homelessness can reduce life expectancy by 30 years and poor accommodation and living in poverty has a severe impact on life expectancy as well. People in temporary housing and social housing are often living in overcrowded conditions due to shortage of suitable properties. The lack of social housing or affordable housing means that people have to move more often, sometimes several times a year. Every time a household is relocated, they lose contact with their community and the support network that is available to them. Therefore, moving from a property affects social relationships and has a negative impact on mental health.

Terminus in Harlow is one example of how overcrowding affects mental and physical health. The 14 stories 1960’s office block has been turned into housing without needing planning permission. The very small rooms are filled with families and single residents from councils in and around London and they are often may miles away from places and people that they know. Crime has risen in the area with around 40% since the tower block was converted and families are scared to let their children out of the room. Therefore, there is no place for the children to play or do homework, and the adults have got no privacy. Jackie, who works as a GP in Whitechapel, has seen the impact that overcrowding has on health. She says that sharing a small space is likely to lead to infections as conditions spread easily, leaving people are more prone to illnesses.

Next, Hannah Slater from Generation Rent spoke about how the insecurity of the private rented market is another factor that can affect mental health. The private rented market is growing due to a shortage of council houses, along with a steep rise in houses prices that are forcing more people to rent. The Royal London suggests that half the children born in the UK are starting their lives in rented accommodation. Most tenancy contracts are ‘Assorted Shorthold Leases’ with only a 6 month agreement. And under Section 21 rules, the landlords can evict the tenant after the agreement has ended without providing a reason. This leads to families having to relocate, losing the community that they have created, as well as their relationship with healthcare professionals and services around them. Biomarkers used in a study have indicated that people living in rented accommodation have higher level of stress chemicals in their blood compared to home owners.

Figures show that a third of private rented properties fail basic health and safety checks due to problems with, for example, damp and mould. But Section 21 means that tenants do not have any security, and they avoid making any complaints about the property as they face being evicted if they do.

Due to the increasing number of private renters, political parties have started to take notice of housing campaigns as private renters now represent a large part of their constituency. The Mayor of London has promised to abolish Section 21, and the Labour Party has added it to their manifesto after pressure from campaigners. Another suggestion to increase the security for private renters is to have a national register of landlords and for Councils to have more control of licensing schemes that they apply for.

Coming together for action

The conference agreed on a few points of action that the difference groups and movements could work towards together. They included things like:

  • Supporting and building the 15th June ‘Grenfell – Never Again’ protest march in
    central London.
  • Ensuring housing rights are enacted and reinforced, backed by a strengthened independent tenant organisation.
  • Calling for an enforceable right to repairs for all tenants, linked to a
    regular inspection regime.
  • Advocating for grant funding for existing and new council housing.
  • Campaigning around connected issues such as Universal Credit, bringing empty properties into use, reducing temporary accommodation, the sale of public land and investment in the NHS.
  • Backing the Charter for Housing Action in 2019 and extend the alliance for action.
Posted by kineara in Community, Housing, Latest