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When everyone has a home

028 9024 5640: Housing & Debt Helpline for Northern Ireland

Housing; why is a key outcome missing from the Programme for Government Framework?

Kate Ward, Housing Rights Policy and Practice Manager, discusses the need for housing to be prioritised as an outcome in the new Programme for Government Framework.

At the end of May, the Northern Ireland Executive published the draft Programme for Government which outlined what the document refers to as “the ambition the Executive has for our society”.

The draft framework identifies the Executive’s purpose as “improving wellbeing for all – by tackling disadvantage, and driving economic growth” which is translated into 14 outcomes and measured using 42 indicators.

Focus on outcomes

Housing Rights is encouraged by the use of the outcome based framework as a tool which measures success when change is made on the ground. However, as an organisation which supports people in dealing with acute housing issues and witnesses the devastating impact such issues can create, we are disappointed by the limited and restrictive housing related content of the 114 page plan.

Where housing is referenced, Housing Rights shares the concern expressed by some other stakeholders that the limited measure referenced is insufficient.

Housing is a key social need in and of itself

Housing Rights experience in providing housing advice and support in Northern Ireland for over fifty years underlines the centrality of housing in people’s lives. Last year we provided direct help which prevented homelessness and improved the housing situation of around 10,000 families and individuals.

People come to us with varied and wide ranging, often complex housing issues. Increasingly these relate to affordability, where they simply cannot afford to remain in their homes. For many others the issues relate to problems with private renting, difficulties accessing accommodation or maintaining it because of poor conditions or disrepair, as well as those who come to us in situations which place them on the cusp of homelessness.

Our advisors work to ensure that people are able to remain in their homes. Last year almost 800 cases of homelessness were prevented. Critically, such is the impact of housing on people’s lives that 9 out of ten of our clients told us that as a result of engaging with our services they had seen a direct improvement in their quality of life.

Building a society where more people live in better housing is therefore, of such significance to the overall stated purpose of the Executive’s framework, that it should be listed as a strategic outcome in and of itself.

The vision of the NI Executive’s own housing strategy ‘Facing the Future: The Housing Strategy for Northern Ireland 2012-17’; ‘to ensure that everyone has the opportunity to access good quality housing at a reasonable cost’, could provide a good basis for the adoption of a new outcome.

Underlying determinant of other needs

Housing Rights also hopes that the consultation process will lead to firmer recognition of the critical role played by good housing in meeting other social needs, in building communities and in tackling disadvantage.

It is well established, for example, that housing is one of the biggest determinants of the health of any population; in fact recent research by the NIHE identified a potential annual saving to the NHS in Northern Ireland of £33 million if targeted improvements were made to housing. Additional research points to the cost of homelessness to the NHS as being between £24,000 and £30,000 per annum per individual. Prioritising the prevention of homelessness and the improvement of homes therefore has cascading and multiple impact on our health and on the public purse.

Of the further research carried out, the impact of housing on criminal justice is also evidenced, a Ministry of Justice report in 2012 for example, identified that 37% of prisoners being released had nowhere to live; 79% reported being homeless before being reconvicted and 60% believed that a place to live was important in stopping them from reoffending.

Making Housing Matters: a Programme for Government consultation event on 5 July 2016

Housing Rights is working with other stakeholders to constructively engage with the NI Executive to ensure the draft framework appropriately reflects the significance of housing in the lives of people in Northern Ireland.

To achieve this, Housing Rights is co-hosting an event on the morning of the 5th July 2016 in the Skainos Centre, Belfast. The event is in partnership with Council for the Homeless, NIFHA and the CIH . Follow us on twitter for further information on this event when available or email diane@housingrights.org.uk.

The Programme for Government consultation runs until 22nd July 2016.

If you would like to get in touch with Housing Rights about our response to the Programme for Government consultation, contact Policy & Practice Manager, Kate Ward by email at kate@housingrights.org.uk.

Tagged In

Policy, Opinion, NI Assembly

Author

Kate McCauley