British austerity policies lie at heart of soaring homelessness and related health harms, argue experts

30.01.2018 - Pressenza London

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British austerity policies lie at heart of soaring homelessness and related health harms, argue experts
One of the homeless residents of London. Covent garden area. (Image by Mani1, public domain, Wikimedia Commons)

Science Daily reports on a British Medical Journal article by Mark Fransham and Danny Dorling at the University of Oxford calling for action on welfare reform and the housing market. “The number of people officially recorded as sleeping on the streets of England rose from 1,768 in 2010 to 4,751 in 2017, but charities estimate the true figure to be more than double this, they write.

“There has also been an increase in homeless families housed by local authorities in temporary accommodation, rising from 50,000 in 2010 to 78,000 in 2017. And in London alone there are an estimated 225,000 “hidden homeless” people aged 16-25 — arranging their own temporary accommodation with friends or family.

“Homelessness also carries both physical and mental risks to health, including respiratory conditions, depression, anxiety, unintentional injury and excess winter mortality, they add. At the extreme end, when last calculated (for 2001-09) single homeless people had an average age at death of 47 years, compared with 77 years for the general population.”

The authors point out that changes introduced by austerity measures are the likely causes of growing homelessness, such as “upward pressure on housing costs coupled with reduced availability of affordable social housing since the early 1980s, reduced funding for supporting vulnerable people with their housing (cut by 59% in real terms since 2010), and restrictions on housing benefit for lower income families.”

Several initiatives that have shown some “suceso of Finland are being piloted in Liverpool, Manchester, and Birmingham, with estimated potential annual savings of £3m-£5m”.

“What is needed is a comprehensive strategy that improves services for vulnerable people, an increased supply of affordable housing, more security of tenancies, adequate cash benefits to cover the rising cost of housing, and more efficient use of our existing housing stock,” they conclude.”

 

Source: Mark Fransham, Danny Dorling. Homelessness and public health. BMJ, 2018; k214 DOI: 10.1136/bmj.k214

Categories: Economics, Europe, Health
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