11 January 2022

When I was invited by the NHF to write a blog about how I saw the relationship between housing and health and wellbeing, I didn’t know where to start.

The obvious place would have been in 1978 when I started my housing career as a Technical Assistant in the Housing Development department of a London local authority. It was a time when local authorities were building new homes, were aggressive in compulsory purchasing houses that had been empty for years and had massive estate redevelopment programmes. Or should I start with how, after 14 years of local authority housing experience, I became CEO of a BME housing association in Hackney? For 19 years I’d seen the impact of poor housing conditions on people’s health and wellbeing.

But reflecting further, I thought about my own experience, of my early years living with my parents in two rooms in what I would later learn was a House in Multiple Occupation in south London. I have vivid memories of condensation running down the windows caused by our paraffin heaters and sharing an outside toilet with several other families. I remember the impact of that environment on my mum’s physical and mental health: her constant coughing, how sad she was all the time and how often I overheard my parents arguing about why they had left the warmth of Grenada to come to such a cold country.

Then it happened. I’m not sure I ever understood how, but we were packing up to move from our two rooms into our own house. I remember, or maybe I’m deluding myself, but my mother seemed a different person almost overnight. She seemed happier and more relaxed, although her constant cough, caused I guess by the conditions in the old place, took a while to go. She was even happier when my sister, who had been left in Grenada, could come over and join us because finally we had enough space to be a proper family. As I look back, this was when I first saw the relationship between housing, health and wellbeing at first hand.

So now with a new Health and Care Bill only months away, I’m Chair Designate of one of these new NHS Integrated Care Boards, tasked with developing an Integrated Care System across Kent and Medway. The bill recognises that the NHS cannot improve the health outcomes and reduce health inequalities across whole populations on its own. It encourages the NHS to work with others, including social care, the voluntary sector AND housing providers. At last, the walls of the silos will come down.

Or will they? What role can housing associations play in this Brave New World of integration? How can the housing association movement, as it reframes its relationship with tenants, work with the NHS to support their mental and physical wellbeing, thereby reducing the pressure on NHS primary and secondary care services?

Now’s the time for the NHF and housing associations to be asking these and many other related questions. Now’s the time for the NHF and housing associations to find out more about Integrated Care Systems. Don’t wait to be asked. Don’t wait to be invited. Start now!

Cedi Frederick will be speaking on the session ‘Good health starts at home! Housing as a social determinant of wellbeing’ at our Board Excellence in Housing virtual conference on 3-4 February 2022. He will be joined by Neil Revely, LGA Care and Health Improvement Adviser and Housing Lead for the Association of Directors of Adult Social Services, and Phil Hope, Board Member, Brunelcare

Cedi Frederick 

Cedi Frederick  is Chair Designate, Kent and Medway Integrated Care Board

Cedi has over 30 years’ experience as a member of the Boards of housing, social care and sporting national governing bodies, several housing associations and voluntary organisations. This experience includes over 12 years as a Non-Executive Director of two specialist NHS Mental Health Trusts, 2 years as Chair of an NHS Hospital Trust and 8 years as a Governor of a University. Cedi is currently Chair Designate of the NHS Kent and Medway Integrated Care Board and Chair of NHS London’s Vaccine Legacy and Health Inequalities Board and is a Non-Executive Director of Sage Housing Ltd.

Good health starts at home! Housing as a social determinant of wellbeing