The Government are committed to tackling poor-quality housing. In the social housing White Paper, we committed to a review of the decent homes standard to test whether it is up to date and reflects current needs and expectations. The levelling-up White Paper sets out a commitment to halve levels of non-decency in all rented homes by 2030, with the biggest improvements in the poorest-performing areas. These reforms will have a positive impact on health, and we will work closely with the Department for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities to support their implementation.
The NHS spends a staggering £2.5 billion-plus annually on treating people with illnesses directly linked to living in cold, damp and dangerous conditions. As a consequence, severe respiratory diseases such as asthma, mesothelioma and other asbestos-related diseases are on the increase, mainly in the most deprived areas. Sadly, more and more people are dying. How does the Government’s levelling-up policy plan to tackle this increasingly urgent health issue?
The hon. Gentleman raises a really important issue that we are determined to tackle. Housing is one of the key determinants of health. A decent home can promote good health and protect from illness and harm. As he said, poor housing conditions have severe consequences for mental and physical health. That is why we are determined, not just through the levelling-up White Paper but through the health disparities White Paper that will be published later this year, to set out a bold ambition to reduce the gap in health outcomes and the actions that the Government will be taking to address the wider determinants of health, including the impact of poor housing on health.
In North Devon it is not just the quality of housing that is causing health issues but the lack of availability of affordable housing and a complete collapse of the private rental sector, which is creating mental health issues among my constituents and also means that my much-loved North Devon District Hospital is struggling to recruit adequate local medical services. What steps is the Department taking to try to address these concerns?
My hon. Friend raises an important issue specific to her area, and other areas that attract people who go there for their holidays and are perhaps not there on a permanent basis. We are determined through our White Papers to address every health inequality, whether caused by a moving population or a static population, in the sorts of areas that the hon. Member for Wansbeck (Ian Lavery) talked about.