Housing associations and co-operatives are independent, not-for-profit social enterprises – mostly charitable companies.
They are part of the social housing sector and supply quality, affordable homes to those in need.
They can be large or small; rural or urban; providing for general or very specialised needs. Many of these organisations are based in communities; some cover a wide area. Some focus primarily on providing housing and support to people with particular needs, such as older people.
There are currently 158 housing associations and co-operatives in Scotland providing more than 280,000 homes and over 5,000 places in supported accommodation, plus factoring services for properties in private ownership, mid-market rent and shared equity housing.
The homes provided by housing associations and co-operatives are typically of high quality, with good energy efficiency standards that help to keep fuel bills low for tenants and meet the Scottish Government’s targets for tackling climate change.
But it is important to emphasise that housing associations are not just landlords. They are not just letting agents. They do not just deal with bricks and mortar.
While it is true that housing associations across Scotland provide warm, good quality homes at affordable rents to many people in housing need, they do a lot more. Housing associations improve health, enhance life chances, transform communities and cultivate resilience of their tenants and the communities in which they operate.
If the goal of health and social care integration is to keep people living safe and well in their own homes, housing associations would be an ideal partner to involve in strategic planning and working groups. Who better to talk to about keeping people safe and well at ‘home’, than people who do that for their day job?
Integrated Joint Authorities are encouraged to think about the role of housing as part of Strategic Commissioning through the production of a Housing Contribution Statement. A housing focused analysis of the 31 Strategic Commissioning Plans revealed that the contribution that housing could make had been recognised by many Integration Joint Boards, as the quotes below illustrate.
“The housing interface with health will be crucial to the success of integration.”
“Housing options needs to be a key feature of our integration of health and social care services.”
“Having a suitable affordable place to stay is at the very core of addressing an individual’s health and social care need.”
“Housing is a key partner and makes a vital contribution.”
“Housing is an essential feature of health and wellbeing with providers giving a critical link to the wider community.”
In some areas, therefore, housing has a key position within the Integrated Joint Boards. The insight that housing providers provide, with the ability to think strategically and operationally about ways to promote good health, and meet the changing needs of people as they get older, has been seen as invaluable.
In other areas, the role of housing, and what housing professionals can offer as part of health and social care integration have not been fully recognised.
Health and social care integration is the biggest change to how our public services are delivered and the housing sector wants to play a full part. Great progress has been made in many parts of the country, but more could be done. The Scottish Federation of Housing Associations, as the membership body for the housing associations and co-operatives across Scotland is ready, willing and able to assist in building the networks necessary to put housing at the heart of health and social care integration. If you would like to find out more about the work of our members, or would like to be put in touch with housing organisations working in your area, do not hesitate to get in touch: you can find out more on our website – www.sfha.co.uk (this link will take you away from our website).
Sarah’s Opinion is part of the ALLIANCE’s ‘We Need To Talk About Integration’ anthology which is available at the link below.