Working as a junior psychiatrist, I saw first-hand how policies that fail to protect the disadvantaged lead to ill-health, stress and reduced life expectancy
A tragedy as gut-wrenching as Grenfell Tower has scarcely been seen during peace time in the UK. The negligence and cruelty of the decisions that caused it have sparked justifiable outrage. Concerns raised by residents were ignored and there are allegations that dangerous materials were used to cut costs and make the building look nice for the rich folk. People understandably take to the streets to protest and seek justice.
Related: The Grenfell Tower tragedy should see off austerity. But don’t hold your breath | Patrick Butler
Poverty is a cause and consequence of accidents and ill-health
Clare Slaney, Richard House and 73 others involved in the mental health field say that voters face an unusually grave choice on 8 June
British society is in crisis. Suicide is now the leading cause of death in men under 45. The Royal Society of Medicine tells us that “relentless cuts” have led to an extra 30,000 deaths. A report to the UN from the Equality and Human Rights Commission noted that work capability assessments “have been linked to suicides and cases of deteriorating mental health”. Benefit sanctions have caused hunger, hypothermia, homelessness and deaths. It is scarcely believable that food banks have become a societal norm. Workplace stress is at epidemic proportions, with working conditions increasingly amounting to servitude. People work for pitiful wages and uncertain numbers of hours, while the highly paid are expected to work a 70-plus hour week. Increasingly, people have to fit sleep around their working life. Employment and wealth have become the primary arbiters of a person’s value and character.
In our view, voters need to revisit fundamental values. Are human beings nothing more than economic units? Are some people valued more than others? Are vulnerable people deserving of public expenditure, or are they disposable? Do neighbours and communities matter – or are we merely people in housing units? Poverty creates chronic mental and physical illnesses that cost a great deal across the life cycle. UK productivity is the lowest in the G7, in part because of stress, because increasing numbers of people hate their jobs, but also because employers refuse to meaningfully invest in their workforce. Treating people as objects has destructive economic effects at every level.
Billy Lindkvist was the first chair of trustees when the Shenehom Housing Association was formed in 1982, leading a group of parents in Barnes, south-west London, who were unhappy at the accommodation and support available to their mentally ill family members.
They were encouraged and supported in founding Shenehom by Dr Nick Boheimer, their local GP.
As affordable housing in Britain’s capital is replaced by luxury towers, people on middle incomes are being priced out, while the poor are forced to pay extortionate rents for shocking conditions
The first time I met Ian Dick, the head of private housing at Newham council in east London, he took me on a walk to look for “beds in sheds”. It was 2011, and alongside criminal levels of overcrowding in private rental properties, there was a growing problem of people living in illegal structures in back gardens. It was not uncommon to find 10 or 20 people living in a room above a fried chicken shop, in a basement, or in ramshackle outbuildings. When we met again, five years later, he was happy to talk to me, not because these problems had disappeared, but because he was proud of the council’s private rented sector licensing regime. Introduced in 2013, it was the first such scheme in the country and had led to 800 prosecutions and 28 landlords being banned from renting property to tenants.
This time we met in Forest Gate, traditionally one of the most deprived parts of Newham. “This is an area undergoing the most dramatic change – the council doesn’t use the term ‘gentrification’, they use the term ‘regeneration’,” he said as we strolled down a pleasant high street in the sunshine, looking up at Victorian facades renovated by the council. Along the road, hipster cafes and pubs were interspersed with clothing retailers, halal butchers and phone shops. To show me the reality in some of the flats above, he took me around the back, where an entire street was accessed by a badly maintained private alleyway, with a huge pile of mattresses dumped at one end.
We paused to look at the ‘to let’ signs in the newsagents. One offered a room share for four people for £160 a month
Related: Stop spending money on avocados? Good idea, I’ll have a house deposit by 2117 | Rhiannon Lucy Cosslett
There are more requirements to run a cattery than to rent out a home
Any alterations to the supported housing rules that force disabled people to either live with family or in an institution would be a huge step backwards
I have Down’s syndrome and I live in supported housing. Today a parliamentary select committee has put out a report on the government’s planned changes for supported housing that could force people such as me with a learning disability out of our homes.
Last year the government said it wanted to make changes to funding for supported housing that would limit payments to the local housing allowance rate and let local councils have control over the extra money needed to give people supported housing. This would mean people such as me could lose our right to have our housing paid for and that there could be a lot less supported housing available.
Related: Abandon damaging government changes to supported housing | Clive Betts
I make my own choices and I get to live the life I want, something everyone has the right to do
Residents of high-rise blocks tend to suffer from more stress, mental health difficulties and neurosis
Prof Colin Ellard was walking past the rows of new-build towers that dominate the west of central Toronto when he had a sudden realisation. “I was struck by how dark, sombre and sad these new urban canyons made me feel,” he says.
Ellard, a cognitive neuroscientist at the University of Waterloo in Canada who studies the impact of places on the brain and body, wanted to know why he felt like that – and if others felt the same.
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