Health, Housing and Hardship
DCN member councils are uniquely placed to identify and support vulnerable people
District councils directly tackle the causes of inequality, poverty and homelessness. They have potential to be an even greater preventative force against ill health and hardship, helping people before their problems reach crisis point.
District councils are the housing authorities in two-tier areas, responsible for ensuring all have access to healthy and safe homes. Their housing teams directly support those who are homeless, or are at risk of homelessness, helping them to find accommodation.
Their dedicated officers specialising in housing, community resilience and revenues & benefits are on the front line of the response to cost-of-living pressures. They can identify those vulnerable in our communities better than anyone, targeting support directly and immediately.
They can respond to new challenges quickly and cohesively, as was the case during the pandemic when staff were redeployed from their usual tasks to work on protecting their community. They have been similarly flexible and quick to act when ensuring newly-arrived refugees are provided with housing and wraparound support such as language classes and employment support.
However, these important district services are now under severe strain amid the growing demand seen in recent years. They need to be resourced properly, and effectively integrated into wider health agendas to improve the wellbeing of all residents.
We are currently prioritising three issues for action, and have a series of aims for each:
Districts at the heart of integrated care systems
- Show how district services are key in determining wider public health
- Demonstrate how districts can be meaningfully engaged in health systems to tackle long-term health inequalities and ease the strain on the NHS
- Encourage true partnership between all parts of local government and the health sector within integrated care systems.
Supporting communities amid the rising cost of living
- Share best practice on the many ways our member councils have eased cost-of-living pressures and helped to prevent homelessness
- Raise awareness within central government of the role districts play in tackling hardship and supporting the most vulnerable and how it could be extended
- Demonstrate how districts can be key to the delivery of good local welfare support.
Raising housing standards
- Highlight the challenges and realities of enforcing housing standards, both in social housing stock and the private rented sector
- Demonstrate how implementation of standards could best be enforced to achieve good results for tenants and councils
- Influence the development of current legislation across social housing regulation and the expansion of the Decent Homes Standard.
DCN spokesperson: Cllr Hannah Dalton, leader, Epsom & Ewell Borough Council