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Millions of young people’s physical and mental health worsened by poor quality housing, new research finds

Posted 20.04.23 by Alice Hinds

One in six young people in the UK is living in poor quality housing, according to new research, with dampness and inadequate heating and plumbing facilities harming both the physical and mental health of millions.

Data from a new YouGov survey of more than 10,000 adults, published by the Resolution Foundation, found 2.6 million people aged 18 to 34 are residing in substandard accommodation, rising to more than a quarter of 18 to 24 year olds.

In Scotland, the figures fall to 8% for the same wider age group – however, the study noted this may be due to the demography of country. People from Pakistani or Bangladeshi backgrounds, for example, were most likely to report living in poor quality housing (36%), followed by black families (26%), therefore residents in cities like London, where there is a higher share of young and ethnic minority people than the UK as a whole, were twice as likely to experience poor quality housing than Scots.

The rising cost of living is also expected to add extra pressure for households. Although renters were most likely to report falling behind on housing costs over the past three months – with 15% of social renters and 10% of private renters in this position – more than one million mortgage holders will soon face more expensive fixed-rate deals, leading to an increased number of homeowners facing the same strain on their finances.

The research also found a strong correlation between poor-quality housing and poor health, which was most prevalent among young people, low-income families and those from ethnic minority backgrounds. Living in substandard properties was shown to make people twice as likely to experience health problems compared with people who reported living in decent homes.

In response to the findings, the Resolution Foundation said policymakers now need to focus on tackling the high costs and poor quality that have led to a twin housing crisis, building more affordable housing to rent or buy in high demand areas, and boosting standards in existing housing, particularly within the private rented sector.

Lalitha Try, economist at the Resolution Foundation, said: “The UK is blighted by two housing crises. High housing costs are causing many renters in particular to fall behind on housing payments, while poor quality housing is leaving millions of people having to deal with damp and malfunctioning heating, plumbing and electrics.

“High costs and poor housing quality can make life miserable for people, and can damage both their personal finances and their wider health. It is critical that policy makers tackle both of these crises – by building new affordable housing, and improving the quality of the housing stock we already have.”

"Care experienced young people need love, relationships and community. They deserve the same as all of us: to belong"

13 October 2022

The Home and Belonging evaluation demonstrates why security and support is fundamental for young people with care experience as they move into their own home, writes Jo Derrick

Children in Scotland and Staf (Scottish Throughcare and Aftercare Forum) are pleased to launch the findings and recommendations of the Home and Belonging Initiative evaluation, undertaken on behalf of Life Changes Trust (LCT).

The report surfaces three key themes that emerge from the evaluation and the collective voices of young people and the teams that support them:

  • The Importance of relationships and support
  • Conceding power and control to young people with care experience
  • The importance of high-quality, suitable housing.


The Life Changes Trust (LCT) was created in 2013 with a £50 million, 10-year endowment fund from the National Lottery Community Fund (the Trust closed in March 2022). It used the money to help drive transformational improvements in the lives of young people with care experience and individuals with dementia and those who care for them.

Their voices, needs and wellbeing are at the heart of all the work they funded, and more information can be found on their website. LCT wanted a Scotland where all young people with care experience see a positive and permanent shift in their quality of life, physical and mental wellbeing, empowerment and inclusion.

One of the key principles of LCT was that young people are the experts in their own lives – experts by experience – and that theirs is the most important voice in shaping projects, planning funding and informing local and national policy. Fundamentally their main purpose was to support those voices so that they are heard.

This principle was a crucial one when undertaking the evaluation of the 11 projects involved in the Home and Belonging initiative. The need and desire to embed relationship-based approach to support, along with bricks and mortar, is evident throughout the projects and reflected in the experience of young people involved:

“I’ve met some really nice, understanding and kind people… Relationships come and go but the ones that stay have the biggest impacts as they really care and listen to you and want you to do well” (Alexia)

The importance of a range of supportive relationships is further captured here in relation to Jason, another young person who contributed to the case studies in the evaluation report.

“Jason receives support from a range of different SOYA staff which means he has several supporting relationships in his life. Having a consistent pool of staff provides stability and consistency for Jason and it also gives him the freedom to work with different people and to identify which relationships he values and gains most from.”

I am, of course biased, but I would highly recommend reading this report to hear from young people themselves the impact that participation in these projects has had on them, and the positive impact of delivering these projects to young people has had on the team around them.

Further, this evaluation not only highlights the major themes to emerge from the evaluation, it makes key recommendations for national decision-makers, local decision-makers and people working directly with young people with care experience. It is vital that we see the findings and recommendations from evaluations like these embedded into sustainable practice and respond to the voices of those experts by experience who have so considerately allowed us to represent their voices.

I could further strengthen my case for this evaluation by referring to the importance of belonging as part of Maslow’s hierarchy of needs and arguing that, if that need is not met, then we may be unable to progress and meet our other needs and therefore make an important case for taking forward a sustainability approach. However, I feel the quote below from Erwin McManus captures the essence of this evaluation and why it is such an important read:

“Home is ultimately not about a place to live but about the people with whom you are most fully alive. Home is about love, relationship, community, and belonging, and we are all searching for home.” (Erwin McManus)

Jo Derrick is CEO of Staf (Scottish Throughcare and Aftercare Forum)




The Home and Belonging initiative

Find out about all the learning and recommendations from the three-year project

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About the author

Jo Derrick is CEO of Staf (Scottish Throughcare and Aftercare Forum)

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