No Health Without Mental Health

04 February 2011

Homelessness recognised as a priority in new national mental health strategy

London Housing Trust has welcomed the focus on the needs of homeless people as a priority in the new mental health strategy, No Health without Mental Health.
Mental health as a cause and consequence of homelessness is an area on which London Housing Trust has many years experience of. A large number of our clients have a diagnosed or suspected mental health problem, and we work with a number of Community Mental Health Teams (CMHT) how poor mental health affects many homeless and vulnerable people.

The new £400m strategy No Health without Mental Health cites homelessness as one of its priorities for attention. In the first paragraph of the strategy’s introduction, it says: “Our objectives for employment, for education, for training, for safety and crime reduction, for reducing alcohol and drug dependence and homelessness cannot be achieved without improvements in mental health.

Under Guiding values and principles the authors also say: “Many homeless people do not receive the support they need to overcome their mental health and substance misuse problems. The public sector duty in the Equality Act 2010 means that public bodies will need to be particularly mindful of how the inclusion and equitable treatment of all protected groups is incorporated, as public agencies produce, monitor and report how on how they have met their equitable objectives.

At London Housing Trust we are encouraged to see homelessness explicitly recognised as a priority concern in the strategy, and we are especially pleased that the mental health of rough sleepers is at last receiving attention – we hope the government will use this strategy to make it absolutely clear that nobody with a mental health condition should be sleeping on the streets. We are also delighted that the strategy has recognised the vital importance of coordinating mental health services with those addressing drug and alcohol dependency – this is a progressive step which should help many escape the misery and distress of untreated conditions.

In highlighting homeless people as a priority group for action, this strategy has taken a great step forward. The priority on child mental health is an important step as many of the clients we work with have experienced childhood trauma and continued abuse that’s gravely affected their mental well-being through their adolescence, into early adulthood and beyond. The legacy of these childhood problems, of course, does not suddenly stop when you’re 18, although the support of some services may well do.

The challenge for local authorities and new GP consortia will be to implement these national principles in local services. Without targeted and accountable action at a local level to provide services that can and will work with homeless people, we will never end rough sleeping.