RSP+

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
Reflections on Reimagining Rent: 1 year on

Reflections on Reimagining Rent: 1 year on

One year on from starting the Reimagining Rent programme, Kineara’s director Maria Morgan talks about our progress since leaving their first cohort of participants, and how the programme has helped us develop our Rent Support Programme (RSP+), a new and upcoming venture aiming to reduce evictions for vulnerable tenants in the private rented sector using holistic support.

How did you find the Reimagining Rent programme?

The Young Foundation (YF) found me actually, which is amazing! Last year, Kineara held a workshop with Azuko and Poplar Harca, where we invited professionals and practitioners across the housing sector to discuss how we could improve the journey through temporary housing. It was during the workshop that I met Radhika Bynon from YF and she told me about Reimagining Rent and encouraged me to apply. I asked when the deadline was and she said, “today!” So I went home and started the application straightaway.

It’s the best thing we did because prior to that we were delivering the programme on a much smaller scale, and only really working with organisations who already knew about us, stayed with us and continued to renew their partnerships with us. It was a blessing that we made it onto the programme at such short notice, and it was exactly what we needed to elevate our work. The most exciting thing about Reimagining Rent is the common desire to make the private rented sector work better for vulnerable people, and that’s certainly what we’re all about at Kineara.

How have you been reimagining Kineara and the Rent Support Programme (RSP)?

The inspiration for our programmes comes from the FIP (Family Intervention Project) model: a dedicated keyworker approach with intensive, purposeful intervention. I took the ethos of the FIP model as the foundation to write Kineara’s first programme, the RSP, viewing rent arrears as a trigger issue and shortening the intervention. But we wrote RSP in 2011, before the housing crisis had become so entrenched and before the worst of the welfare reforms. So I had to ask myself: how can RSP continue to make a difference in the changing context of housing?

At the same time, I’d been thinking about how to scale up Kineara’s work and expand our reach but also take the programme into the private sector for vulnerable tenants. It took time for the idea to fully form and it finally came when I was sitting in a Reimagining Rent session listening to a speaker, I think it was Susan Aktemel actually. I was listening to her and then OMG! The penny dropped.

We’re now beginning to have conversations with Local Authorities about RSP+ and I don’t yet know the outcome of this work, but we’re motoring ahead and wishing for the best. I hope that RSP+ can be duplicated across councils. I’d like our original RSP to be resurrected within housing providers too, and working on scaling up all of Kineara’s work, which was one of the drivers for me joining Reimagining Rent.

As an organisation, we are reshuffling the way we do things to make it more efficient. I have an amazing team full of great people. We are all in it together and Kineara is not a one man band. I’ve been so blessed to have such amazing people to go join me on this journey.

It’s been exciting to see the development of the Rent Support Programme Plus (RSP+) pilot in the last few months. Can you explain more about the new model we are piloting?

First of all, it is about working with Local Authorities to connect, support and engage both landlords and private tenants in their boroughs. Many councils have now introduced Landlord Licensing Schemes and accreditation schemes to help improve standards, and most do offer some form of advice line for private tenant in insecure tenancies or who are threatened with homelessness.

Of course, our RSP is not a silver bullet for all housing issues. But I asked myself, how can we build on the kind of support we’ve delivered with our social housing tenants in the past and extend it to the most vulnerable tenants in the PRS? As far as I could see, there were no other services providing this offer. So the first part of this pilot is to offer RSP to council’s and work with them to strengthen their relationship with private landlords, offering alternative options to issuing Section 21’s, preventing additional costs to the council in the form of re-housing, temporary accommodation and the rest, as well as, of course, preventing homelessness for households.

If you live in a council property, there is a far greater obligation to work things out with the tenant when problems arise such as rent arrears. It made me reflect on why a private landlord want to pay for a service like RSP when they can issue a Section 21 and have a brand-new paying tenant come into their property. This is why our delivery model is much stronger working with Local Authorities and they can also save a lot of money by participating. The difference between RSP and RSP+ is that the original programme is delivered for social housing tenants where the housing association pays for the intervention, whereas in RSP+ the Council invests in the programme, offering landlords a route away from eviction via our service and enabling intensive support to be delivered to private sector tenants whose vulnerability often goes under Local Authorities’ radar until a households’ needs become urgent.

Finally, do you have any advice for this year’s cohort?

My advice to them is be open.

Sometimes we can defend what we know and we miss out on learning something new – it’s a trap I have fallen into. Just let go and be open to allow your mind to think, take in new ideas and think creatively. And use the room, use the space, use the people around you. If you immerse yourself in that experience you will get so much more from it. It was the best thing that we’ve done as Kineara. It has really elevated our thinking. And I would say to everybody, enjoy it and make the most of it!

The group are very varied which is amazing. They seem to be coming from different perspectives but have the same goal, which is working to make the private rented sector better for vulnerable people, including those on low incomes. It’s also a useful opportunity to reflect on where society is at. There are so many changes in the UK, and it’s important that we have a strong foundation and identity about what we are doing, but have the flexibility to meet changing needs.

I would like to also say thanks to The Young Foundation for delivering such an impactful programme. Looking at the cohort that I was part of as well as the new cohort of participants, the ideas people are developing are pretty incredible and being introduced to investors who are willing and keen to support projects with a social purpose is awesome.

All the best to the new cohorts!

You can read the blog in full on the Young Foundation’s website.

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