Understanding this is key to ensuring occupiers are not suffering ill health as a result of poor conditions
Where do we spend most of our time? At work? In the car? Most of us spend longer in our own home than anywhere else, and the condition of our homes therefore has an important effect on our health.
The sort of problems we might encounter in our homes includes issues of damp and mould which can exacerbate asthma, or cold homes which can result in cardiovascular and respiratory illness. Other problems in our homes could cause accidents such as falls or fires; and issues such as living in overcrowded conditions can cause psychological problems. These are just a few of the potential problems within our homes which are collectively known as category 1 hazards, based on the Government’s Housing Health and Safety Rating System (HHSRS).
Clearly, addressing these hazards and improving homes results in improvements in health and wellbeing, as identified in a BRE Trust report on the cost of poor housing which highlights potential savings to the NHS in England of more than £1.4 billion a year from dealing with the most pressing housing problems.
To understand the condition of their housing stock our local authority clients use BRE’s housing stock models to help understand the condition of the private sector housing within their local area. Our clients can use this information to improve their housing stock overall and promote health and wellbeing – for example, Watford Borough Council have used the stock model data to develop a policy to improve and maintain private sector housing standards, to promote health, wellbeing and sustainability in which available resources are targeted at those most in need. Our local authority clients can now visualise this data in maps within HSCD, BRE’s online system for delivering our stock model data.
Clients also share the housing stock model data with their Public Health experts, CCGs and social care teams to help them identify households potentially living in poor conditions which may affect the health of the occupiers. This means maximising the number of interventions undertaken and the health benefits which result.
It is also possible to use our housing stock model data to quantify the costs and benefits to the NHS (and to the wider society) of mitigating hazards within homes. These Health Impact Assessments are useful to demonstrate the cost effective nature of particular improvements when considering the wider impacts of hazards on health – for example, a cold home resulting in cardiovascular disease will have a cost to the NHS associated with treating that disease; but if the cold home can be treated very simply with an efficient boiler or cavity wall insulation, this quickly becomes a cost effective course of action.
Clients can also make use of our housing and health-related tools – the Housing Health Cost Calculator (HHCC) and the Excess Cold Calculator (XCC). The HHCC is one of a number of tools developed to provide local authorities with the information they need to drive up public health standards and reduce costs. It details the cost savings to the NHS and wider society gained by both enforcement and improvement strategies – and allows these to be authoritatively demonstrated. To view the tool click on HHCC and follow the instructions provided.
The XCC assists Environmental Health Practitioners and Technical Officers in the assessment of the Excess Cold hazard in dwellings. Users enter information about a dwelling and its occupants and the calculator provides estimated running costs and information on the adequacy of the heating system. This information can be used for many benefits including discussing works required with landlords. The tool is available online on a subscription basis. If you would like more information please contact us or visit the Excess Cold Calculator Website.
If you would like to find out more about our housing and health services, please contact us via: [email protected]