Letter to the Editor: Housing fundamental to improving child health

Alison Watson, deputy director of Shelter Scotland
Alison Watson

Dear Editor

The news that Scotland’s children are still among the least healthy in Europe is a depressing reminder that our failure to address inequalities causes profound damage to the most vulnerable in our society. This must act as a wakeup call for how we focus public policy priorities in Scotland today.

It is simply not right or acceptable that in 21st century Scotland a child’s likely health can too often be determined before they are born by looking at their postcode.

There is no single policy measure or solution to these complex problems but ensuring there is a good quality, affordable and safe home for everyone is a fundamental part of how we can begin to turn this situation around. While the Scottish Government has committed to an ambitious housebuilding programme this must deliver genuinely affordable housing in the places that people need homes.

In 2014/15 an additional 60,000 children were pushed into poverty in Scotland because of high housing costs. At any one-time last year more than 5,000 children were living in temporary accommodation because their family had lost their home. The impact this upheaval and lack of fundamental security will have had on so many of our children will be profound. The danger is that for some of them this will be just the start of a lifetime in and out of homelessness.

In 2015 the Commission for Housing and Wellbeing set out the benefits that would come by tearing down the barriers to accessing decent quality, affordable housing. The Commission’s findings attracted wide-spread, cross party support and agreement that more genuinely affordable housing would be good for our health and wellbeing – both individually and collectively as a nation.

Ensuring a safe and affordable home for everyone must be at the heart of tackling child poverty in Scotland and reducing our health inequalities. A good home; one that is in good condition, one that you can afford and one that you can stay in for as long as you want, is a foundational springboard for our children to thrive. If we want to see the most deprived children enjoying better health and flourishing in school, we must first ensure they have a place to call home.

Alison Watson

Deputy Director

Shelter Scotland

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