Scotland’s Housing Festival: Achieving better health through housing
In this new blog for CIH Scotland's Housing Festival, Pennie Taylor, a freelance journalist specialising in health and social care and our Chair for day one, examines the links between housing and improving health.
When the architects of our Welfare State were drawing up their plans to address the social security needs of post-war Britain, they were in no doubt about the critical role that good housing plays in the health of a nation. 70 years on, it is more evident than ever that Scotland needs a vibrant and diverse housing sector if it is to rise to the considerable challenges the future will bring.
Quality housing is key to achieving Scotland’s ambition to build a health-enhancing and sustainable social framework for all. Indeed, an adequate standard of living is recognised as a fundamental human right.
We know that as our population ages it will become ever-more important for those with complex health and care needs to be able to continue to live well in their own homes for as long as possible. A decade of austerity means that homelessness is rising once again, and a growing number of families are living in temporary accommodation instead of comfortable, affordable homes where they can put down roots. And as the gap between rich and poor widens, it seems obvious that access to high-quality social housing, shared ownership, co-housing and other models of provision could help to bridge the equality divide.
Making change demands commitment, collaboration and investment - not just in terms of cash, but also creativity. There are exciting opportunities to look ahead, to anticipate a person’s changing needs as they grow older, and future-proof homes to meet individuals’ requirements over their whole life course. When it comes to health and social care so much more can (and surely will) be done with digital technologies, linking people and their health practitioners from the privacy of their sitting rooms, monitoring activity remotely to keep them safe. There are also chances to innovate, to build and re-build mixed communities where loneliness and isolation – as significant a threat to health as smoking 15 cigarettes a day - become things of the past.
Given the resources to flourish, I predict that housing providers in Scotland will become an increasingly diverse bunch. In Glasgow, plans are well underway to stimulate self-build developments, and interest groups are coming together to explore how they can collectively create the homes they wish to live in, rather than the ones developers might want them to have. Across Scotland, housing organisations large and small are exploring new ways of engaging citizens, and delivering well-designed buildings that people are proud to call home.
Far-sighted politician William Beveridge and his colleagues took a leap of faith when, in 1948, they identified housing as a major plank in progressive social policy. We owe it to them to keep developing and refreshing that vision, and I look forward to hearing the views of our keynote debate panel, and the ideas of the audience, at Scotland’s Housing Festival 2019.
Biog: Pennie Taylor is a freelance journalist specialising in health and social care. Former BBC Scotland Health Correspondent, she continues to broadcast regularly. Pennie will chair the first day of Scotland’s Housing Festival 2019, and leads the keynote debate: ‘What does a 21st century housing provider look like?”