On the back of the publication of the Green Paper, a major study by Mind emphasises need for Government to ensure mental health is at the heart of social housing policy.
A study by Mind, the mental health charity, has found that one in three (33 per cent) people with mental health problems living in social housing is dissatisfied with where they live. Social housing is provided by local authorities, housing associations or charities to people affected by issues such as low income or disability.
Existing research* shows that one in three people who live in social housing has a mental health problem. However, newly analysed data from Mind has shown more than two in five (43 per cent) of people with mental health problems living in social housing have seen their mental health deteriorate as a result of where they live.
Wanting to understand more about the relationship between housing and mental health, Mind surveyed 2,009 people across different housing sectors. Of these, 1,762 have mental health problems and 668 were living in social housing and had mental health problems. The survey also found that:
- More than one in seven (15 per cent) experienced stigma from housing officials during the social housing application process
- More than one in four (27 per cent) had problems with benefits such as universal credit or housing benefits.
- Nearly three in ten (28 per cent) experienced stigma from neighbours or flatmates.
The charity wants to see a greater focus on mental health within social housing policy, with a particular focus on addressing stigma and problems with benefits.
Sophie Corlett, Director of External Relations at Mind, said:
“Social housing is meant to be safe, secure and low cost, making it a good option for those of us with mental health problems who need it. Yet our research shows that people with mental health problems who need social housing are being let down at every stage of the process and the current system just isn’t working for people with mental health problems.
“Given how many people living in social housing are experiencing mental health problems, it’s shocking to see how little attention is given to mental health and housing. At the moment, barely any data is collected on the mental health needs of tenants by local authorities. The recent Green Paper made little reference to mental health, but did mention the need to collect more information about how councils allocate their housing. The Government needs to start collecting data on the housing picture for tenants with mental health problems if it’s serious about properly meeting its ambition for improving support for people with mental health problems. We’d also like to see more training for those working for social housing providers to ensure they are well equipped to support tenants who have mental health problems.”
Nadia is 54 and living in Hackney, London. She is a single parent and currently shares a small studio flat with her 17 year old son. Just over a year ago she was living in a bigger home but struggled to keep up with the rent after her business went under.
“I was privately renting a three bedroom house and was running my own business. Unfortunately, my company folded, and that’s when I felt the strain of making my monthly payments for council tax and other bills. I applied for housing benefit, but only received it for a limited time before it was cut off. After I was evicted, we were forced to move to a studio flat in another part of London, and all our possessions were destroyed by my landlord. As a direct result, I ended up in hospital in mental health crisis.
“My son and I both have severe mental health problems, worsened by our current housing situation. City, Hackney and Waltham Forest Mind has been great in offering me advice and support but the council haven’t been much help. We’ve been in temporary accommodation for ten months now. We’re on a waiting list for somewhere more suitable but even the waiting is causing a great deal of anxiety. My son’s been set back a year in his studies and I’ve been hospitalised form the stress of being placed in poor quality housing in an unknown and dangerous area. Finding new accommodation can’t come soon enough.”
Kathy is 47 and lives with her husband in Merseyside. She has lived in her current home -social housing provided by a housing association - for 20 years.
“I have developed extreme depression and anxiety and I am prone to having panic attacks. Although I’ve had mental health problems for several years, they have worsened in the last two years, as a direct result of our neighbours. I work from home as a self-employed illustrator, so I’m affected by them 24/7. Our last neighbour regularly threatened us with a gun. Eventually he was moved on without having to go to court. Unfortunately, the neighbours that moved in two years ago are equally bad - noise and anti-social behaviour including threatened assault. The police have been involved.
“It’s affecting my income too. It’s extremely difficult to work as they constantly play loud music all day and all night and because they work shifts, there is always someone home. It’s now a vicious cycle – the more unwell and stressed I get, the less I am able to work, the less money I’m earning, and this feeds into my stress and poor mental health.
“Everyone deserves a safe place to call home and we are desperate to move. The Housing Association have said we just have to put up with it. They say they prioritise actual assaults over threatened ones, even though we are terrified to live here.”
The research also found that the housing system is incredibly difficult to navigate and understand, with more than two in five people (43 per cent) with mental health problems in social housing surveyed telling Mind they had difficulty understanding their housing rights.
In response, the charity has launched a new guide which aims to assist people with mental health problems who want to understand how housing laws relate to them, available at mind.org.uk/housing.
Mind surveyed 2009 people in England in January 2018, of whom 1762 said they had a mental health problem and 668 were living in social housing. Respondents were a self-selecting sample who completed the survey online.
* Money and Mental Health Policy Institute