Marya Saidi asks what is the cost to the individual of moving people out of borough.
Local news has been awash recently with talk of ‘social cleansing’. With funding cuts looming and the diminishing number of affordable properties, some London councils can no longer afford to house their tenants currently on housing benefit. One solution to this is relocating individuals, sometimes entire families, to neighbouring counties, where admittedly house and land prices may be cheaper.
However what is the cost to the individual?
A news article this past week has reported that some London councils plan to relocate homeless people to the Midlands. Homeless people are a cohort of extremely vulnerable people and are often suffering from mental health problems (Folsom & Jeste 2002; Scott 1993).
Historically, and more specifically about mental health in this case, the advent of deinstitutionalisation in the past few decades brought increased pressure on local social services to provide accommodation within the community, with demand exceeding supply and giving way to the flourishing of the private sector. However, some of these private facilities are some distance from the public authorities that are purchasing places in them, which may not be in the long-term interests of the residents (Poole et al. 2002). People placed in out of area treatments (OATs) are disadvantaged by dislocation from their family and community and loss of continuity of services from their areas of origin (Killaspy et al. 2009).
Drawing from my PhD study on specialist housing services for people with mental health problems in England, interviews with service users and service managers have revealed the detrimental effect of moving people out of borough and away from their communities.
Of the 86 service users interviewed for this study and currently living in specialist housing services such as care homes and supported living schemes, 42 said that the area where they were now housed was not where they had spent most of their lives. People who had been displaced were more likely than their counterparts to say that the main barrier to them seeing their families and friends was because they didn’t live nearby; they were thus much less likely to have maintained contact with them. On the other hand, people who were living in their home area were much more likely to have chatted to their friends in the last two weeks.
These findings do suggest that placing someone out of area can sever peoples’ ties with their communities, as well as with their families and friends.
Certainly, people with mental health problems are one of the most socially excluded groups in society (Social Exclusion Unit 2004). However one may wonder about the mental health, well-being and social inclusion of people who will potentially be displaced due to funding cuts.
Research is still ongoing. To learn more, email Marya Saidi (email@example.com)
Folsom D, Jeste D (2002) Schizophrenia in homeless persons: a systematic review of the literature, Acta Psychiatrica Scandinavica, 162, 6, 404-413.
Killaspy H, Rambarran D, Harden C, Fearon D, Caren G, McClinton K (2009) A comparison of service users placed out of their local area and local rehabilitation service users, Journal of Mental Health, 18, 2, 111-120.
Poole R, Ryan T, Pearsall A (2002) The NHS, the private sector, and the virtual asylum, British Medical Journal, 325, 349-350.
Scott J (1993) Homelessness and mental illness, British Journal of Psychiatry, 162, 314-324.
Social Exclusion Unit (2004) Mental Health and Social Exclusion Social Exclusion Unit Report. Retrieved from http://www.socialinclusion.org.uk/publications/SEU.pdf.