That this meeting of Congress discusses the health and wellbeing impact on families and individuals without a secure, affordable home.
This was originally a Matter for Discussion. This was changed to a Resolution after a vote and the Resolution passed.
A safe, settled home is the cornerstone on which individuals and families build a better quality of life, access services they need and gain greater independence (Guardian Society, 2014). There is extensive evidence that shows poor housing conditions have a significant impact on physical and mental health. For example, a warm and dry house can improve general health outcomes with a particular impact on respiratory conditions. Housing also has a huge influence on mental health and wellbeing – children living in crowded homes are more likely be stressed, anxious and depressed, have poorer physical health, and do less well at school.
There is unequal distribution of good quality housing across the UK. In England, the effects of poor housing on the NHS were previously estimated to be at least £1.4bn per year and £2.5bn per year when considering all housing throughout the entirety of the UK. Furthermore, one in five dwellings in England do not meet the Decent Homes standard; in Northern Ireland it is estimated the annual cost to society of inadequate housing is £401m; and in Wales, poor quality housing was estimated to cost the NHS more than £67m a year. According to Shelter Scotland, one in three Scottish homes don’t meet the Living Home Standard.
Lack of social housing means that many people on the lowest incomes are forced to find homes in the private rented sector where short-term tenancies, rent hikes and the threat of no-fault evictions all make long-term security difficult. This has been exacerbated by changes to housing benefit, which no longer covers the whole rent, and claimants can also go weeks without support. This can push vulnerable people into temporary – and in extreme cases full-time – homelessness.
In 2018, the Westminster Government recorded 4,677 people sleeping rough in England, 165% higher than in 2010. In Scotland, for the six-month period of 1 April to 30 September 2018 there were 18,486 applications for homelessness assistance, 2% more than in the same period in 2017. In Wales, 2,703 households were assessed as homeless during July to September 2018 while in Northern Ireland, there were 11,877 applications for homelessness during the 2017/18 financial year.
Health outcomes for those who are homeless are significantly worse than the general population. Homelessness and poor housing multiply inequalities and have a long-term impact on physical and mental health. The impact on children and young people can affect their long term physical and mental health. The rate of homeless children in Great Britain is one child in every 103 (England one in 96, Scotland one in 156, Wales one in 412).
Homeless families can suffer from a range of related health issues, including hunger and malnutrition, and they can struggle to access services such as GP surgeries. Rough sleepers risk assault and theft of personal items and are susceptible to extremes of weather throughout the year.
Without a safe, affordable home the severe health risks will continue.