MPs have urged the Government to protect tenants living in poor quality homes that can have a ‘catastrophic impact’ on their health.
In a new report (19 January), the Health and Social Care Committee has concluded that people who are less well-off and those living in less well-off neighbourhoods are more likely to develop life-limiting health conditions and die prematurely.
The most serious housing hazards include dire and electrical risks, excess cold, excess heat, damp and mould, and air pollution, MPs on the committee said.
MPs on the Committee reiterated a previously rejected recommendation that all ICBs be mandated to install a public health representative on their board.
The Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC) had rejected this on the grounds it wanted to protect ICS autonomy.
The report said: ‘Given what we have heard about impact that these individuals can have in ensuring a longer-term focus, we recommend that DHSC reconsiders the case for mandating representatives in this role.’
The report also drew attention to the death of two-year-old Awaab Ishak, who died in 2020 from a respiratory condition caused by mould in a housing association property.
In 2022, Pulse PCN reported that the neighbouring PCN would begin sending social prescribers to confirm details of distressing or inadequate housing to better inform letters to housing agencies in response.
The Committee recommended NHS England introduce a national strategy should improve frontline clinical practitioners’ understanding ‘of the benefits of social prescribing and to improve their confidence in offering social and community-based solutions’ to unmet social needs.
The Committee also welcomed Government measures proposed in Awaab’s law to protect social sector tenants from the worst impacts of unhealthy homes, and recommended quick action and to consider if similar safeguards could be extended to tenants in private rents.
Other key recommendations from the report include:
- Requiring developers to aim higher, with quality housing and development that protects residents’ health
- Launching a Government consultation on the content of existing design and space standards as they relate to health.
Committee chair and MP Steve Brine said: ‘Poor quality homes can have a catastrophic impact on the health of the those who live in them. The death of two-year-old Awaab Ishak from a respiratory condition caused by mould in his home should leave Ministers in no doubt that tenants in both the social and private rented sectors deserve greater protection by law.’
He added: ‘Our report welcomes the government’s plan to introduce Awaab’s law for tenants in the social sector. We urge swift action on the outcome of the consultation, but the government must also consider safeguards for tenants in the private sector where risks of damp and mould can pose an immediate danger to health.
‘Creating healthy places to live to prevent ill-health among the population must take priority for Ministers. Not only will that reduce pressures on the NHS but will save vast sums spent each year on treating people with preventable illness.’