Partnership case study: ‘Health and housing service’ by Walsall Housing Group

Walsall Housing Group (WHG) Health and Housing Service supports customers and their families to maintain independence and live a healthier lifestyle. It reduces dependency on other services by providing people with access to various healthy lifestyle opportunities. Cost effective and efficient, it allows us to target interventions into areas of high deprivation and morbidity to prevent or delay the need for higher cost services in the future.

Our challenge

The role of the Health Housing Partnership and the Community Health Champions is to improve health outcomes in Walsall’s areas of greatest deprivation and to help close the health inequalities gap between the poorest and most affluent communities.

In 2010, Walsall was ranked 35 of 326 Local Authorities in England for level of deprivation. The Borough fares particularly badly in terms of education, income and employment deprivation.

The Health and Housing services is delivered by our locally-based Health Champions and is marketed to customers in targeted areas of the borough to enable them to retain their independence and live healthier and more active lives.

Our key priorities are:

  1. healthy lifestyles: NHS Health Checks, Making Every Contact Count, Five Ways to Wellbeing, bridging programmes
  2. childhood obesity: engagement and delivery of Active Clubs in community venues to support engagement with and the delivery of  Make it Count and Fun4Life
  3. teenage pregnancy and young peoples’ sexual health: including support for the condom distribution Scheme, chlamydia and other STI screening, Contraception (Young People’s Outreach Services) and provision of advice /information at brief intervention level and referral into mainstream services
  4. men’s Health
  5. emotional Wellbeing

Our solution

The Health and Housing Service is a programme-based, person-centred preventative service providing a range of health and lifestyle based activities using the “5 Ways to Wellbeing” and delivered in local community settings from schools to the local football club.

We encourage people to:

  • Connect  with people around them and develop social networks
  • Be active , engaging  with physical activity and community events
  • Enjoy their surroundings
  • Keep learning, undertaking training and skills courses
  • Seek employment and volunteering opportunities

Our aims are:

  • to increase the number of Walsall residents living in deprived areas and those in priority groups who are referred into and access key prevention programmes
  • to support residents to make first contact with mainstream services, particularly those on the Walsall healthy weight pathways
  • using the ‘Making Every Contact Count’ accredited methodology, to provide brief interventions
  • to improve access to services that support social and economic well-being and inclusion
  • to act as a mechanism for engaging with and obtaining feedback from local residents about service delivery and improvement

The contracts require detailed reporting of outcomes and targets to ensure the programme meets the desired outcomes and has been subject to a detailed external review from an independent consultancy.

Our impact

Predominantly the outcome measures for the bridging programmes are about affecting behaviour change. We look at referrals of 40-74 year olds to NHS Health Checks and hope to try and prevent an individual becoming ill and/or help them to manage a condition and prevent deterioration.

Make Every Contact Count (brief interventions) is about providing the wider public with information and advice on healthy lifestyles and making appropriate referrals to mainstream services for ongoing support.

We monitor the effectiveness of our programmes by reviewing the health improvement of customers following the end of their involvement in projects.

Overall we have internal KPIs and contracted outcomes for the programme which are reported to our local authority funders and board on numbers of participants and activities.

As part of our wider review of our HWB performance framework we are developing new outcomes to inform future development of the service and expanding into new areas of health promotion. 

Our partners

Recognising the impact that housing has on health, WHG and Public Health formed a Health Housing Partnership in 2008 and this has continued to evolve since. The partnership uses the reach of WHG to engage with and involve customers and the wider community in a range of health-related projects and services which advocate prevention and positive lifestyle choices. It addresses the wider determinants of health by enabling access to a range of opportunities including capacity and confidence building courses, financial inclusion and money management support and volunteering, employment and training.

The work of the partnership is supported by a range of organisations from the public and voluntary community sector and the ‘Health Housing Strategy’ which was commended in 2009 by the NHS Health Inequalities National Support Team for its quality.

The strategy has three main aims:

  • to tackle deprivation and reduce poverty
  • to tackle health inequalities
  • to encourage the community to adopt healthy lifestyles.

Key partners are:

  • Public Health
  • Walsall Council Sports and Leisure
  • Lifestyle Link –  Walsall Manor Hospital
  • Dudley and Walsall Mental Health Trust

Our role

As the largest provider of social housing in Walsall, WHG is well placed to deliver a range of support services in the borough both to our customers and the wider community. Walsall has some of the highest areas of deprivation and health inequalities in the West Midlands and we provide a range of services in these communities.

We are investing in the construction of four new wellbeing schemes as hubs to deliver all our wellbeing and independence services from across the borough working closely with council and health partners to deliver local services into some of our areas of highest need.

WHG has a dedicated health and wellbeing team who deliver projects for older people, young people, healthy living and lifestyle services which combine to support users of the services whatever their needs.

Key to success is that the champions are recruited from target communities and have direct experience of some of the issues and problems we’re tackling. They develop trust and empathy with individuals and are able though this relationship to lead by example, build confidence and self-esteem, provide brief advice and signpost them to the relevant mainstream agency for sustainable support.

Our contribution to improving health

The Health and Housing Service enables customers to lead a more active and healthier life.

Our services enables people to re-engage with their communities, manage their tenancies, finances and wellbeing, seek new opportunities including volunteering and access health services.

The project cuts across most of the outcomes frameworks due to the preventative nature of the service but in particular it contributes towards:

  • NHS Outcome 1 – preventing people from dying prematurely
  • NHS Outcome 2 – enhancing quality of life for people with mental illness and ensuring people feel supported to manage their condition
  • ASCOF outcome 1 employment of people with mental illness/ proportion of people using services who have control over their lives
  • PHO – domain 4 – emergency readmission and suicide rates
  • PHO – domain 1 - percentage of adults with second mental health support in stable and appropriate housing
  • NHS Outcome 3 – helping older people to recover their independence after illness or injury
  • PHO Domain 1 – improving the wider determinants of health including use of green space for exercise, social isolation, children in poverty
  • PHO Domain 2 – people being helped to live healthy lifestyles, make choices and reduce inequalities.
  • PHO Domain 3 – health protection classes and initiatives