Ward staff are all too aware of the relationship between housing and mental health. Having a good home is central to everyone’s well-being, and unsuitable housing can be a significant factor in triggering a mental illness. Neighbours can be a major source of support, or conflict – or indifference. With swelling problems of bed occupancy, all ward managers are very focused on the need for patients to have suitable housing so that they can leave the ward as soon as they are ready.
Even when patients can return home, preparations for this (eg visits from the Home Treatment Team, support for carers, advice about employers) can be very time-consuming. If a patient isn’t able to return home and a new, probably supported, housing arrangement has to be made, there’s lots of help available because housing issues are notoriously complex and technical. It may be possible to liaise with the local authority housing department and work together to ensure that a patient has the best housing for them. People could help include the patient’s social worker and CPN, as well as their local housing team.
Talking it through
Most conversations about home don’t involve technical housing issues, but are a chance for the patient to say how they’re feeling about being away from and returning home. (See Idea #37 Arriving and leaving]. You could:
- Talk to patients about their housing situation, including whether they are happy with it and what options may be available to them
- Find out whether they know about different kinds of housing and what would be realistic for them to expect
- Explore with patients what their housing options may be and either contact the relevant agencies (see Resources below) or find out who will be able to do this for/with them while they are in hospital
- If a patient has money worries, put them in contact with people and agencies who can help with money management, debt and benefits, including housing benefit.
- If a patient will be living independently, discuss the costs of living other than rent and, if necessary, offer support to plan how they will keep their home clean and well-maintained and stay on top of the bills.
- Consider whether there are small things a landlord could do to help make a rental situation work, such as giving reminders about rent or being prepared to wait for a housing benefit claim to be processed, and arrange to liaise with them if appropriate.
- Look at the different factors that might affect an individual’s housing situation. If someone has money problems and can’t pay the rent, it’s a different problem to someone who has enough to cover the rent but struggles to organise it.
- Housing specialists hold regular sessions and they have strong links with local housing officers. They prioritise overnight leave so that people are not ‘absent’ from their homes for a period which puts them at risk of losing their housing.
- The Involvement Centre offer leaflets and information on housing support services and hold regular drop-in clinics.
- An In-reach team come to the ward to spend time with patients who are referred to them with issues like accommodation, benefits, paying bills etc.
- Referrals are made to services who provide supported accommodation.
- The ward sorted out my housing situation. Before I got admitted I was living next door to neighbours from hell who treated me really badly. But I got re-housed somewhere that was more peaceful.
- I was helped to find a flat in an area that was near my family and friends; I really feel I have turned the corner thanks to living in accommodation that suits me.
- I’m going to living in a supported accommodation house when I leave hospital. Knowing staff are there if I need them is really reassuring but I will still have my independence.
- Being involved in some of your home responsibilities is good. It means that when you get discharged it’s not too much of a shock and they don’t build up.
- For a while I didn’t know who could help me see to my household chores but there’s actually lot of support out there.