Poor progress on housing for mentaly ill

Little progress has been made in improving the planning and delivery of housing services for people with mental health needs. That is the conclusion of a report, published today by the Auditor General for Wales.

Despite clear expectations set out in the Assembly Government’s National Service Framework for adult mental health, the report found that poor progress has been made in delivering the Assembly Government’s targets, strategic planning remains of poor quality, and joint planning between local health, social care and housing service providers was not always effective.The Assembly Government’s monitoring against the delivery of its housing targets has also been ineffective.

The report found that only two local authority areas had delivered more than half of the targets set out by the Assembly Government and only seven local authorities had produced action plans capturing all of the housing-related targets. The action plans of two authorities included none of the housing targets.

The report adds that the Assembly Government did not issue any specific guidance for social housing providers about their role in delivering the National Service Framework targets and awareness of the Framework and ownership of the targets by local housing agencies has been low.

Access to the right quality housing and related care and support services is critical for people with a mental illness, to ensure their independence and social inclusion. A lack of stable housing is a key factor that can lead to social exclusion and risky behaviour and can lead to more institutional forms of care and support.

Although levels of homelessness have fallen, in many parts of Wales some people with low-level mental health needs continue to face difficulties in accessing suitable housing and related services. But, the scale of the problem is unknown because very limited information is produced specifically on services for people with mental health needs, and there is no requirement for either local authorities or housing associations to measure and report their performance in providing housing services for people with mental health needs.

The report makes eight recommendations for improvement, including:

The Assembly Government should make clear, to health, housing and social care planners and providers, through guidance and in other ways, its current expectations of them to deliver housing targets and to encourage a joined up and supportive approach;

The Assembly Government should ensure that its regulatory requirements of housing associations includes the requirement need for them to deliver, in collaboration with other agencies, against the relevant Framework housing-related targets;

and key local agencies should develop protocols together for meeting the housing and support needs of people with a mental illness that cover the planning and commissioning of services, the tailoring of services to meet specific needs, referral systems and information sharing.

Auditor General for Wales, Huw Vaughan Thomas, said today:
“Despite clear targets, it is disappointing that so little progress has been made over the last five years in improving the planning and delivery of housing services for people with mental health needs.

“Given the importance that access to good housing has on the independence and inclusion of adults with mental health needs, Wales really does need to get to grips with this issue fast.”