Multi-agency housing programme improves health and wellbeing in Liverpool

In Liverpool, there is a significant amount of properties within the private rented sector which are sub-standard, increasing the chance of occupants suffering from preventable health conditions, as well as contributing to health inequalities. 

As a result, Liverpool City Council started the ‘Healthy Homes Programme’ (HHP) in April 2009 to improve housing conditions in the city, as well as engage with residents affected by poor housing to offer a range of health and wellbeing related services.  

Kitchen (before) - Liverpool 

An example of one of the homes inspected under Liverpool Council's Health Homes Programme 

The project was originally commissioned and funded by Liverpool Primary Care Trust (now Public Health and part of the local authority since April 2013) to address these health inequalities identified through the wider determinants of health and therefore help reduce hospital admissions and visiting their GPs.

Trained advocates in community engagement went into targeted areas of Liverpool and with permission of the residents, made referrals to a number of partner agencies. This meant that the most vulnerable people in Liverpool were able to benefit from a ‘hub’ of support services such as housing conditions, fuel poverty and debt, benefits advice, healthy eating, exercise, smoking cessation and access to training and jobs. This represented partnership working at its best. 

In housing terms, the main focus was on identifying and eliminating major hazards in the home such as excess cold, tackling poor heating and insulation, accident prevention, dampness and mould. Once a property was inspected and deemed a risk to health, be it physical, mental or even both, environmental health officers dealt with the sub-standard housing conditions through improvement notices and other enforcement powers under the 2004 Housing Act.  

In one example, a female tenant had no heating in her property and as a result had been sleeping in a chair next to a halogen heater to keep warm through the winter. In addition, the property had a catalogue of problems from inadequate food storage facilities, lack of kitchen worktops to defective ceilings and walls in bathroom and cluttered rooms. Following an inspection from the HHP team, a number of actions were actioned, such as updating the tenant’s kitchen and installing a new central heating system, which have gone a long way to improving the tenant’s health

Kitchen (afterwards) - Liverpool 

The same kitchen above gets a complete refit thanks to the intervention of the Healthy Homes Programme 

HHP has achieved numerous achievements and is recognised by the Department of Energy and Climate Change and the World Health Organisation as a good example of what can be achieved when various agencies join up and provide the right support for vulnerable people.

To date, there have been over 28,000 referrals to various partners and this has led to more than 6,000 home risk assessments, which has then identified nearly 4,400 serious housing hazards that have been remedied. This has resulted in nearly £5.4million of private sector investment by landlords in Liverpool towards improving the condition and safety in properties.

Phil Hatcher, Programme Manager for HHP, said that one of the programme’s key strengths is that the various stakeholders can reach out into communities to identify people who are socially isolated and would not usually engage with vital support services.

“Housing can be an important determinant of health and it is often the most vulnerable in society who tend to be the ones who suffer the most from poor housing conditions,” said Phil Hatcher.

“Working with our local stakeholders, we have been able to address a range of health and social issues and are extremely proud that we have been able to update many properties but more importantly, improve people’s health and wellbeing.”

Liverpool Council’s Healthy Homes Programme is featured as a case study within the ‘Housing and Health Resource’, a specially designed website launched by the Chartered Institute of Environmental Health and supported by Public Health England (PHE) that aims to inform Environmental Health Practitioners and local authorities on the impact that housing conditions can have on physical and mental health, with the objective to improve health and wellbeing and reduce health inequalities.

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