Housing and mental health: providing support for people in need

2 February 2016

Given the current debates taking place in parliament in relation to housing and the prominence of the housing issue in May’s London mayoral election, it seems an apt time to publish our new mental health and housing report.

The report identifies which types of supported accommodation successfully meet the needs of people with mental health problems and draws on the expertise of people living and working in these settings across England to capture the issues on the ground. 

Having a safe and warm shelter is fundamental to our mental health and wellbeing and is a ‘foundation physiological need’ on Maslow’s hierarchy of needs.  Housing should not only be somewhere safe and warm but also a secure and positive environment that supports people as their lives progress. 

Research shows that those who are homeless, or at risk of homelessness, are much more likely to experience mental distress. A significant proportion of homeless people have a mental health problem, and many are without the support they need to address their mental health. 

The experience of poor mental health affects everyone differently, and mental health problems can arise at any point in an individual’s life.  As such, diverse needs require diverse solutions, as one size does not fit all when it comes to supporting people living with mental health problems. 

In relation to housing, this means a holistic approach to housing is needed to ensure adequate supported accommodation is provided. Supported accommodation refers to the physical structure and also the service or services which are provided to the residents that are not normally provided in the mainstream rented sector. 

Five successful approaches to supported accommodation for people with mental health problems identified in our report are:

Care support plus: high-level integrated support

This model of supported housing was launched in 2012 in response to the need to create supported housing which could accommodate people with a high level of mental health needs who might otherwise have to stay in hospital or residential care. This approach has proven successful in relation to recovery of customers, improved quality of life, and economically with annual savings per customer at around £450,000. 

Housing support for people who have experienced homelessness

This approach covers those sleeping rough without access to any accommodation, and those who are not sleeping rough but without any permanent accommodation.  It is essential that staff in homeless or housing support agencies are provided with sufficient training. 

Support for those with complex needs

People with complex needs (those who have two or more needs affecting their physical, mental, social or financial wellbeing) should be given tailored support and a person-centred approached to social care. This is likely to be highly valuable. 

Low-level step-down accommodation

This approach involves housing pathways that provide effective living environments for people with all levels of mental health needs, that enable people to move through a system of high, intensive to low-level care according to their needs. 

Mental health and housing in later life

This approach covers effective supported accommodation for people living with dementia or enduring mental health conditions.

The report makes several recommendations in relation to the quality of supported accommodation, the need for co-production in the design and development, the need to invest in the recruitment and continuous professional development of staff, the development of and support of staff to understand and implement the approaches articulated in polices and, finally, the need to put resources into ensuring that appropriate accommodation is available and provided to those in need, including people with mental health problems.

It is our hope that this resource will be drawn upon to develop effective housing solutions for people living with mental health problems.

Read the Mental health and housing report

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