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As housing issues in the UK and statistics reveal the lack of quality accommodation and the inconsistency of housing policies in different boroughs, it is important to review the related studies. The relationship between social status, work, education and child development has been recently revealed; however, the framework to support better approaches at a national and local level has been still awaited. The Lambeth Borough Council has developed a long-term (4 year) plan to better services provided to social housing tenants, to improve the quality of properties and to support the most vulnerable groups of people, including children. The council used research and statistical data, as well as government guidelines regarding tackling homelessness, temporary accommodation, diversity and well-being of tenants. The local development framework was created to implement the Children and Young People Plan in the policies and guidelines to be adapted by decision-makers. Social inclusion and empowerment programs should be created in order to tackle the effects of bad housing and unsuitable environment. The following study is aimed at reviewing the policy in the light of national policies and strategies, measuring its effectiveness and evaluating the progress made so far.
Housing effects various aspects of life; and the quality of living environment and infrastructure and the availability of schools and jobs also have various effects on people’s mental and physical well-being. A good quality environment and social housing do not only promote better physical health, but also affectmental well-being of tenants. Tunstall et al. (2011) examined the early outcomes of housing on children’s lives and found that test scores at the age of 5 were influenced by children’s housing status. Social-rented accommodation was an indicator of lower performance, and the same pattern was found later as well. The main purpose of the study is to evaluate whether there is a direct relationship between bad housing and mental performance, or there is an influence of parenting on parents’ living in social accommodation. Statistical data should be further assessed in order to prove that better housing conditions result in a better outcome for children. (Banes et al. online) Various policies have been used in the research to determine this relationship; however, before looking into details of the Lambeth council’s action plan and children housing strategy, evidence should be examined from various sources in order to determine the level of influence of housing on children’s health, well-being and mental performance, as well as their physical development. The following literature review looks into the most recent research publications to prove the initial thesis before examining an individual approach of Lambeth Council towards the issue.
The below research is looking to examine whether the Lambeth Council housing and community policies are adequate to tackle the effects of bad living conditions. The research questions therefore are:
a)Does Lambeth Council deal with the main sources and effects of bad housing?
b)Are there clearly outlined long term goals included in the policy?
c)Is there evidence that the implementation of new initiatives has a positive effect on the lives of families living in the borough?
The authors of the current study would review the policies and the research related to poverty, bad housing, performance in school and health issues to determine the effectiveness of the local initiatives.
The authors would like to use qualitative secondary research methods to evaluate the current research and the policies of the council in the light of the findings of authors evaluating the effects of bad housing on children’s and families’ lives. The statements and conclusion of the research would be then compared to the current initiatives, policies and schemes set up by Lambeth, in order to answer the initial research questions. As there are different variables to be taken into consideration during the research, specific to the area, such as housing, demography, social and educational statistics, it is important that the authors would research the trends and the characteristics of the given living environment, after carefully reviewing the correlation between different issues and the outcomes of children’s lives, performance, health and development. Therefore, the secondary research method was selected to provide the most relevant overview of the communities, policies and population of Lambeth, instead of coming to generalized conclusions. As the subject of research is the policies of Lambeth Council, there is a need for reviewing the characteristics of the borough to determine the effectiveness of the schemes and local policies.
Tunstall et al. (2011) reviewed the “Index of Family Advantage” among children living in privately owned homes, privately rented accommodation and social housing. The index is made up by the parental education level and occupation, and figures show that the proportion of the least advantaged families is higher in social rented accommodation, while only a small percentage of children living in social housing belong to the most advantaged quintile. (Tunstall et al. 2011, p.5) The author also examined the relationship between the size of homes and children’s performance. The results showed that a larger proportion of children in social housing lived in smaller homes (1-3 rooms). Condensation and damp in social housing were present to a larger extent, and it is a well-known fact that these conditions affect children’s and adults’ health. Another important aspect of housing is neighbourhood, and as the study is designed to examine the council’s perspective on housing and children’s well-being, it is crucial to examine this aspect and its effects on children’s lives. The absence ofaccess of social tenants to a garden and green space has its implications on health.However, the level of neighbourhood deprivation isa crucial aspect of the study. Social renting was characterized bythe highest presence of the most deprived neighbours, and this meant a great disadvantage for children growing up in social housing. Children’s parents and siblings were more likely to rate their neighbourhood as poor/very poor to raise kids. (Tunstall et al. 2011, p. 17, Fig.8) Test scores at the age of 5 showed a direct relationship between the poverty level and results. The study concludes that successfully controlling some of the examined factors (family advantage and neighbourhood deprivation) can have an effect on the academic achievement and well-being of children. The study used a sample of children born in 2000-2001, using Millennium cohort study data, totalling 9041 records. The reliability of the study is confirmed, and the relationship between housing and academic achievements is clearly shown in graphs and charts.
Friedman (2010) examined the social impact of poor housing, and offered a broader view of low quality social accommodation. The study examines the effect of crime, educational attainment and health. It also reviews some government policies and strategies regarding the improvement of housing and the multi-beneficial approach. One of the major innovations of the study was that it examined neighbourhoods from a community’s perspective. When the community lacks self-esteem, crime and anti-social behaviour will rise. Crime can affect family’s views of the safety of their neighbourhood, and as a result, children will suffer. The study also confirms the relationship between housing status and academic achievements. The more deprived an area was, the lower point scores were. Consequently, social housing and low quality accommodation resulted in poor health and more school days missed per academic year. Lower academic achievements may also have its financial impact on the children’s future resulting in with lower potential earnings or worse job prospects. Health implications of the quality of housing have been also determined by the study. The evidence of linkages is summarized by the study, and it concludes that mould, cold and dampness affects children’s health most of all. The number of respiratory illnesses was higher in places, where these conditions were present. Winter deaths were also associated with coldness and draught. It is also important that smoking tobacco and internal air quality also affected health of all residents; however, this condition was somewhat independent of the quality of houses and of parents’ behaviour patterns. The study also confirmed that depression was more common among those living in high buildings and overcrowded areas. One of the unique measurements used by the authoris the relationship between mental well-being of tenants and the quality of housing.
Feinstein et al. (2008) researched the public value of social housing, and explored the relationship between life chances and the quality of accommodation among children. The study uses original statistical data to examine the relationship between different variables. Changes in the society after the end of the war are also examined in detail to provide an insight to professionals and local authorities in creating effective policies for positive outcomes. The below overview of findings will be later compared with national and local policies and strategies, housing recommendations and development projects to determine whether councils choose the right approach when designing strategies and setting priorities.
The Shelter study (Harker 2006) examines the impacts of poor housing on health of children as well as adulthood outcomes. The study found that “poor housing conditions increase the risk of severe ill-health or disability by up to 25% during childhood and early adulthood”. (Harker 2006). The most serious health problems occurring as a result of poor housing are asthma, meningitis, slow growth and mental health problems. Because of lower academic achievements, the unemployment rate is higher, and the poverty level among children growing up in poor housing conditions is confirmed to be higher than among those from clean and average backgrounds. The effect of housing on physical health issues is proven to be long-term as well. The risk of disability increases as the quality of housing decreases. Overcrowded housing might result in an increased chance of accidents and contraction of meningitis, that is, a life-threatening disease. Childhood tuberculosis is also linked with poor air quality and crowded living environments. Respiratory problems are more likely to arise among children living in poor quality housing. Children are more likely to miss schools because of illnesses, if they live in unfit properties. Cognitive development is delayed as it is confirmed by the study. The lack of opportunities for exercise and leisure result in aggression, lower academic attainment and behavioural problems. The study reviews the government’s initiative titled “Every Child Matters” and lists outcomes of the policy. These are as follows:
(a) be healthy;
(b) stay safe;
(c) enjoy and achieve;
(d) make a positive contribution;
(e) achieve economic well-being.
Out of the above five, the authors of the Shelter study (Harker 2006) focus on the following specific areas: health and emotional well-being, safety and security, and educational attainment. Before examining the effects of poor housing in detail, it is crucial to understand the definition of “bad housing” pointed out in the study. According to the report, there are three major types of bad housing circumstances: homelessness, overcrowding (when different sex children over the age of ten have to share a bedroom or parents share a bedroom, occasionally some living areas are used as bedrooms) and poor conditions or unfitness (needing repairs, dampness, coldness, infested or unsafe structurally).
The study confirms not only short-term consequences of living in unsuitable homes, but long-term effects on children’s health. Severe illnesses, asthma and respiratory illnesses can develop at an early age, and they can cause long-term disabilities or health conditions. (Harker 2006, p.13) Cold, damp and mould characteristics of housing have been assessed based on their impact on children’s health. Dampness and the produce of fungi create allergies and cause respiratory problems. The study quoted by the report confirmed that children in mouldy and damp homes were 1,5-3 times more inclined to developing long-term coughing and wheezing, as well as long-term respiratory illnesses, such as allergies and asthma. These illnesses result in a higher number of days missed per academic year, as well as the lack of sleep and slower than normal growth. The lack of central heating is one of the main reasons, why homes can become mouldy and damp, as well as leaking of roofs and crowded furnishing. The lack of free space for air to move around, as well as the absence of regular airing can make conditions worse. The chance of catching an infectious disease is higher among children living in crowded homes. The study confirms that in the United Kingdom, there are 900,000 children living in overcrowded conditions (Harker 2006, p. 6. Source: Survey of English Housing 2000-03, combined data).
The study further reviews mental health implications of crowded, cold and damp homes. The anxiety level of children living in unfit and crowded homes was higher, and they often experienced problems with sleeping. Long-term psychological effects of living in unsuitable or overcrowded homes were also examined, and the authors found that people, who spent years in overcrowded conditions were more inclined to developing depression in the early 20-s.
2.2. Staying safe
Three main findings of the study confirm that there are three major risk areas for children. These are risks of accidents in homes, because of the lack of space and crowded furnishing, road accidents because of the lack of free green space to play and home fires, sincepoor quality homes are less likely to have a smoke alarm installed. The study confirms that there are over 900,000 child admissions to hospitals because of home accidents happening with children under the age of 15.
2.3. Enjoying and achieving
The two major impacts of poor housing on an academic achievement and well-being determined by the study are missing schools and the lack of relaxation or sleep. However, there are further problems that cause underachievement, such as family issues, unemployment and health problems. The level of stress caused by the lack of interaction with peers and being ashamed by living circumstances in the family are one of the effects of underachievement. The lack of peer-relationships can result in a higher level of stress and underachievement. Damp problems can result in a specific smell of clothing, and these are usually noticed by school children, giving them a reason for making negative remarks (Harker 2006, p.24).
2.4. Making a positive contribution
The study confirms that there is a higher chance of development of behavioural problems among children in poor housing or without homes. Young offenders show a great percentage of homelessness or poor housing history, and when we examine that children cannot emotionally attach to homes they live in, the source of the problem can be determined. As soon as children grow, they can assess the situation and will want to “get away” from the life, which they are living. Although the exact link between poor housing and behavioural problems has not been clearly identified yet (Harker 2006, p.27), but the relation has been measured. There might be various reasons for the development of mental illnesses and behavioural problems; such as poor quality of entertainment, recreation, the lack of visual stimulation, the inability to connect to peers, feeling ashamed and wrong socialization patterns.
2.5. Economic well-being
Poor academic performance explored in the previous chapters has a long-term financial impact on the lives of people growing up in temporary or poor housing. Long-term health problems can also reduce lifetime earnings, and it is evident that the society will lose out as well as individuals, who suffer from poor housing in their childhood.
Lupton et al. (2009) has examined social housing conditions in Britain from 1946 until today to evaluate the quality of life, government and council policies, the availability of homes and the cost associated with applications. Childhood housing has been examined in the light of adult outcomes, and the study provides a clear guideline for policymakers and a complex view of today’s society, housing issues, health, and poverty problems. The report focuses on neighbourhoods and homes alike, and examines the impacts of local and governmental housing policies on the level of availability and affordability.
The role of social housing has been changed significantly for the last 60 years, as well as the public value associated with this social service provided by the government. The study is based on the previous studies using data of people born in 1946, 1958, 1970 and 2000. (Lupton et al. 2009, p.2) The study uses previous cohort studies to examine aspects of social housing above. As far as the current study focuses on reviewing the local authority’s approach towards tackling social housing, associated poverty issues and health problems, it is necessary to review the history of the institution. Among children being born in 1946, 37% lived in social housing at the age of six. More than 55% of those born in 1946 spent some time in social housing. This proportion was reduced as times advanced and homes became available for buying, and those born in 1970, only 32%of children aged five lived in social housing and 38% spent some time in social accommodation during their lifetime. Among children born in 2000, only 21% lived in social accommodation (Lupton et al. 2009, p.7). While the number of children in social housing decreased, the difference between living circumstances and views of the society about social tenants somehow changed.
The study points out the increased concentration of disadvantages, and quotes the same index of advantages already examined in the study created by Tunstall et al. (2011). The study reveals a lower rate of employment among parents living in social housing at the moment, however, the pattern shows that “over-successive generations, and children growing up in social housing experienced several cumulative processes of disadvantages” (Lupton et al. 2009, p.9) These disadvantages range from neighbourhood, low quality homes and low income.
The study discloses that a possible explanation of the relationship between childhood housing and adult outcomes can be based on the effects of the environment, neighbourhood, and trajectories. The example and role models seen by children would have influenced their perception of relationships and values, and the more concentrated the number of social homes in a given area was, the stronger this effect might have been.