Better homes, better health with housing support service

Oxfordshire residents with health needs can now access support to reduce housing-related health issues thanks to the Better Housing Better Health service.

The service aims to ensure safer, more suitable housing conditions, to signpost for support for other social and health problems, and to promote independent living for those with existing health issues.

It is a partnership project between Oxfordshire County Council’s adult and children’s social care services and fire and rescue service, the county’s district and city councils, health services and the voluntary and community sector.

Councillor Mark Lygo, Oxfordshire County Council’s Cabinet Member for Public Health said: “The pandemic has served to highlight the role housing plays in health. Good housing can be critical for good health – not just during a pandemic. The winter months can be particularly stressful for those in poor-quality housing, which can exacerbate health conditions. Those who live in the poorest quality housing are more likely to suffer with health problems, such as respiratory issues.

“However, there are a number of steps that can be taken to prevent or manage ill-health such as adaptations to support independent living, making homes more resilient to extreme weather through home improvements and advice, as well as ensuring more secure private tenancies. This could prove particularly vital with fuel prices remaining high.

“The new service will ensure that people who need support will be able to access it by providing those most in need with a home visit to identify somebody’s needs and to connect them to a wide range of support.”

The countywide service will target communities with high health inequalities and will prioritise requests for support from residents living in poor quality private sector homes.

The existing Better Housing Better Health service has already helped so many in need of support across the county to carry out improvements on their home. One recent recipient of support is Tim, who’s life has been transformed by the support of Better Housing Better Health. Read his story below.

Tim’s story

Tim Owers, who’s in his fifties, needed a new boiler after his aging boiler was condemned. He’d recently returned home from a lengthy hospital stay following major surgery so needed urgent help before the cold winter months set in.

West Oxfordshire-based Tim explained: “When I was discharged from hospital after major surgery I had been away from home for just over a month. Winter was coming and as my boiler was due to celebrate its 50th birthday and had already been condemned during its last service (it had a gas leak) and I was really quite worried about having no heat during the coming months.”

His boiler had been in such poor condition that he was already living without hot water. With the situation heading into the winter months looking bleak, the Better Housing Better Health service came to his rescue, securing him the grant needed to fit a brand-new combi-boiler.

“The Better Housing Better Health service was my saviour in just about every aspect of securing a grant to install a new combi boiler and arranging everything in between,” he continued.

“I now have a new and reliable source of both heat and hot water and can now recover from my surgery, free from all the worries I previously had thanks to the wonderful staff at the National Energy Foundation."

Better Housing Better Health is coordinated by the National Energy Foundation. Learn more about the work it does, including how to access support, by visiting bhbh.org.uk

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