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Poor Homes, Poor Health – To Heat or to Eat?

January 14, 2013

The Pro-Housing Alliance (PHA) published research at the end of last year ‘An Exploratory Study on the Health Impacts of Welfare Reform on tenants living in the Private Rented Sector’. 

“The health of tenants in the private rented sector who are in receipt of housing and other benefits, is clearly being put further at risk as a consequence of the Government’s welfare reforms and poor conditions within the sector, and this is not just a London issue”, said Dr Stephen Battersby, Chair of the Pro Housing Alliance at the launch of a research report commissioned by the PHA. He continued, “The study by GLHS shows that lack of security and high costs for what can be dangerous and unhealthy housing contributes to poor health including mental health. This is made worse by the difficulties of finding the money to keep warm and eat – sometimes tenants cannot do both. This will lead to greater demands on the NHS, and one wonders if this is part of a policy of coercion by destitution” he said.

Gill Leng who led the research said “Talking to tenants and advice agencies up and down the country has shown just how the cuts are impacting on people who already have very little money to live on.  It is clear that health inequalities will be further increased not reduced”.

She highlighted one quote from a tenant interviewed in Blackpool where rent is comparatively cheap and the PRS accounts for 22% of the housing market, but who could not move to cheaper accommodation:

“It would have to be a tent in a field.”

A single pensioner interviewed said:

I have lost contact with all my old friends because I am embarrassed about the circumstances I am living in and my lack of money.”

The report identifies difficulties for advice agencies, who are in their own words “drowning under demand”. One adviser interviewed said

“People will live in dangerous situations with their fingers crossed rather than tackle their landlord.”

It also refers to the worries about landlords and lack of security at the cheaper end of the market:

“Went to CAB about damp. Have had difficult conversations with landlord who threatened he would not renew my contract if I pursue this.” 

The report can be located on RIAMS as National Policy and Guidance in the general section of the Housing module.