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Social housing key to successful integration

The crucial role of social housing providers

Brussels, 14 January 2015 | Social
Copyright: The Guardian
Copyright: The Guardian

The challenge of independent living, the necessity of the so called co-production and some encouraging examples.


By Julien Dijol*

Providers of social housing share the belief that housing should be a place where dignity is protected and where the least well off are not priced out. To put those words into deeds, they also work to enable adults and older people with physical and mental health care needs to live at home independently, while providing a focal point for community services and activities.

Although the model of provision of services and housing can vary from one region to another- direct provision of full package of adapted housing and care services by the social housing provider, provision of permanent housing in combination with floating support providing by external care service providers, etc;- there is a growing sense of necessity to involve the users and their families in designing the support; the so-called “co-production".

More broadly, the challenge of independent living in an ageing society urges social housing providers to cooperate with a wide range of stakeholders from various sector, including health and homelessness, within the community, even more now that communities and neighbourhoods are hit by unemployment and poverty as well as new migration flows. Working together may require a bit of a cultural shift for many stakeholders including social housing providers, but it is now recognised as the most cost effective way to provide housing to people with complex needs.

For instance, a recent study by DELPHIS has quantified on a sample of social housing organisations avoided social aid costs for public health service resulting from the prevention of nursing home admissions through housing companies’ “ageing at home” policies. It varies from 3.000 € to 7.000 € per tenant per year.  

Another example: the Supporting People programme in the United Kingdom has been recently evaluated and the findings support the cost effectiveness argument for integrated housing support. Overall, Research by Cap Gemini for the Department for Communities and Local Government (CLG) found that £1.6 bn of housing-related support services generated savings of £3.4 bn to the public purse, including to health and social care by avoiding more costly acute services. 

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In order to really benefit from this not cheap cost and at the same time people-centred approach, there is a need to constantly create cooperation paths between the different sectors. It is also crucial to get housing providers recognised as essential to integrated services. Part of the daily job of social housing providers is to understand customers' needs and provide early support, which could take various forms: from employment and skills training to advice on welfare support and direct care provision. Social housing providers need to be trained and supported to work with other sectors in order to promote this successful approach to integration.

EU funded projects such as ELOSH and informal networks (such as PUSH – Practice and Understanding of Support in Housing) can be really useful to further promote this approach. Housing Europe through its social affairs working committee will continue to highlight those good practices and the needs of organisation on the ground, so that the EU via its various funding sources (ESF, EASI, ERASMUS +) make a difference. 

* Julien Dijol is Policy Coordinator of Housing Europe

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