I agree that good-quality, affordable and safe housing is vital to good mental health and wellbeing.
Research by the Mental Health Foundation finds that people with mental ill-health are twice as likely to be unhappy with their housing and four times as likely to say that it makes their health worse. GPs often identify housing issues when discussing factors involved in their patients’ mental health presentations, both as a sole cause and as an exacerbating factor of mental ill-health.
Around 14% of social housing is supported housing, which has a key role to play in helping some of the most vulnerable people in society. Last year, the mental health charity Mind published a review which found that the shortage of social housing has resulted in a dramatic increase in the number of people in poor quality temporary accommodation.
I am disappointed that the Government’s social housing Green Paper does not outline any new money to increase supply, especially while the number of new social rented homes is at a record low. More widely, the plan places very little emphasis on mental health. A related consultation on the Green Paper closed on 6 November 2018. I know that Mind was planning to respond to this and I will follow its outcome closely.
Despite repeated promises by the Government to give mental health the same priority as physical health, mental health trusts in England have less money to spend on patient care in real terms than they did in 2012 and there are 5,000 fewer mental health nurses than in 2010. At the Budget in October, the Chancellor said funding for mental health services will grow. However, the King’s Fund described the proposals as “no more than a small step on the road to parity of esteem”.
At the last general election, I stood on a manifesto with a commitment to increase mental health spending and ring-fence budgets to ensure money reaches the frontline. More widely, the manifesto committed to build 100,000 new genuinely affordable homes to rent and buy a year and introduce new legal minimum standards to make all rented houses fit to be called home.