Charlie Norman

Charlie Norman ~ Chief Executive ~ St Vincent’s Housing Association

Recently, I had the privilege to be with Edna, who was celebrating 100 happy and healthy years. Her ‘do’ was at one of our retirement living schemes and Edna attributed her good health and long life to moving into that scheme nearly forty years ago.  It really brought home to me the immense impact housing can have on health and wellbeing.

Residents living in sub-standard housing are disproportionately at a greater risk of poor health and low mental wellbeing.  Shelter reported that a higher number of working age adults living in bad housing reported fair, bad or very bad general health (26%) than those living in good housing (17%).

The Greater Manchester Housing Providers (GMHP) partnership want to do even more to work with our health and social care colleagues to improve health and life chances for the people of Greater Manchester. We are working with the GMHSC Partnership to do more in people’s homes and communities and we believe we are perfectly placed to help with the prevention and good health agenda.

We are a coalition of around 30 housing associations owning 1 in 4 homes in Greater Manchester and with a 10,000 strong workforce.  We recently undertook a health and housing audit; the results of which demonstrated an overwhelming amount of work linking housing to health in Greater Manchester.  We are certainly doing much more than simply building and managing homes and the GMHP set five health and wellbeing pledges to help focus this work.  These are:

  • Moving from hospital back to home (such as specialist support, telecare services and step up / step down services)
  • Reducing health inequalities (work with people in poverty, access to work and with homeless people)
  • Connecting housing and mental health (such as community projects and partnerships with mental health services)
  • Managing Long Term Conditions (including housing options for older people and specialist schemes for people with Dementia)
  • Integrating health care and housing (including place based working)
  • Warm homes to alleviate winter pressures and fuel poverty
  • Homes and services for the ageing population
  • A huge range of supported and independent living schemes

Just one of many examples of this work is the fantastic ‘Men in Sheds’ initiative by Bolton at Home with support from Warburtons to encourage retired or isolated men to learn new skills and socialise.  Isolation is one of the biggest threats facing middle aged men of the modern age and has been linked to physical health problems.  We are potentially looking at launching our very own rival ‘Women in Sheds’ too!

Christine, one of our residents at our new HAPPi  (Housing for the Ageing Population Panel for Innovation) scheme in Bury told us that she moved to the scheme after an injury to her neck stopped her working and she struggled to walk.  Having had few neighbours nearby and not being able to get out led to her suffering with depression.  After moving to the HAPPi scheme she was so much happier to have more neighbours around her and a home that better suited her needs.  She said:

“You can’t put a price on health – it’s absolutely fantastic what this apartment has done for me.  That view has more than brought me out of my depression.”

She is now much less reliant on health care and feels so much happier. The HAPPi scheme has also helped others to ‘right size’ to an attractive home that meets their needs now and into the future and has freed up much needed family housing.

There has been a greater focus in the press on homelessness and rough sleeping recently which has been sadly growing visibly worse (a total of 132% increase in rough sleeping in England since 2010) but Andy Burnham and local partnerships have pledged to tackle this in Greater Manchester.  Having a home is absolutely essential to health and wellbeing and lots more work is being planned from housing providers such as ‘Housing First’ pilots and better hospital discharge services with plans for more housing officers to work in hospitals.

GMHP is here to help our partners in health and social care.  Improving people’s housing and links to health not only saves money to the public purse in the long term but boosts the wellbeing, health and happiness of individuals like Edna.