Birmingham health bosses have signalled the city’s commitment to understanding and meeting the needs of homeless people by signing up to the St Mungo’s Broadway Homeless Health Charter.
Birmingham Health and Wellbeing Board has adopted the charter which aims to improve the lives of some of the city’s most vulnerable people.
Cabinet member for Health and Wellbeing, Cllr John Cotton has identified homelessness as one of the biggest public health challenges faced by councils in 2015. And he is determined to meet the challenge.
He said: “You could almost say that homelessness represents a ‘perfect storm’ of many of the public health issues facing our city.
“Homeless people have a far lower life expectancy than the general population. They’re far more likely to experience physical and mental health issues, while drug and alcohol misuse is also far more common.
“It’s a depressing picture but by signing up to the St Mungo’s Broadway charter, the council, health organisations, the voluntary and community sector are all showing a determination to work together to help improve the lives and health of some of Birmingham’s most vulnerable people.”
Howard Sinclair, Chief Executive of St Mungo’s Broadway, said: “Homelessness hurts. Homeless people have some of the highest levels of poor health within our society. We have launched this campaign Homeless Health Matters to demand action to improve the health of some of the most vulnerable.
“We thank Birmingham City Council for signing our Charter and committing to include homeless people in their local health plans. This means we can really start tackling inequalities and improving people’s health. We urge other Health and Wellbeing Boards to follow their example.”
Research from St Mungo’s Broadway and Homeless Link found that:
- 73% of homeless people have a physical health problem
- 80% of homeless people have a mental health problem
- The average age of people who die while homeless is 47, for women it is 43
- 42% of homeless people have attempted suicide and they are nine times more likely to commit suicide than the general population
- Many homeless people struggle to register with a GP, often due to not being able to provide a permanent address
In addition to signing the charter, Birmingham Public Health has developed a homeless health needs audit, which asks homeless people about their health, lifestyle and use of healthcare services in Birmingham. The data will be used to better plan and provide healthcare services for homeless people across the city.
Particular emphasis is given to:
- GP registrations
- Community mental health assessments
- Barrier-free access to wider support services
Engagement with homeless service providers in Birmingham was very positive and the following sites proactively supported the audit:
- Trident Reach
- SIFA Fireside
- Midlands Heart
- St Basils
- Salvation Army
- Birmingham City Council Temporary Accommodation sites
Cllr Cotton added: “We’ve identified the needs of homeless people as a priority and we’re already putting measures in place to help protect some of the most vulnerable people in Birmingham. Not only is that morally the right thing to do, it also makes sound financial sense in the long run.”