Over 11,000 private houses in York - 15 per cent of the city’s homes - contain hazards that cause people to fall or trip over or are badly-heated costing the NHS millions of pounds, a report claims.
Council bosses in the city have launched public talks on the issue to try to ensure private homes, both those rented out and occupied by homeowners, are much safer and cut back on associated costs to the NHS caused by accidents and falls in the home and illnesses exacerbated by badly-heated homes.
A draft blueprint launched by the council says poor housing can pose a health risk. Improving energy efficiency and targeting fuel poverty for example would help to bring down the numbers of winter deaths.
Yesterday the Royal Society for the Prevention of Accidents (RoSPA) said it was a nationwide issue with ten children in the UK killed every year because of a fall in the home, the majority caused by falling on the stairs. It said under-fives and over-65s are especially at risk.
Sheila Merrill, public health adviser for RoSPA, said: “Many of us feel that home is the safest place to be, however more accidents happen there than anywhere else, with more than 6,000 people dying every year as a result.
“Those who are particularly vulnerable are the under fives and the over 65s, with falls being the major cause of death and injury.”
In York it is estimated the cost of treating accidents and ill-health caused by hazards such as badly-fitted flooring and carpets, poorly-lit stairs and illnesses linked to poor heating is £2.3m a year.
“High costs and high demand for private rented homes in York means many, particularly those with the least resources, can find their options limited,” the draft blueprint says.
Coun David Carr, York Council’s executive member for housing and safer neighbourhoods, says the city is starting from a good base but should not be complacent.
In the blueprint he says: “There are a relatively low proportion of poor private homes and overall energy efficiency rates are high. There are few empty properties and little overcrowding.
“But we must not be complacent. Within this overall picture poor conditions can still be found and there’s always more we can do to ensure homes are fit for the future.”
In total around 86 per cent of York’s 87,507 homes are in the private sector and of these, 11,444 have a major hazard.
The public is being invited to comment on the draft blueprint, developed by a number of organisations.
It suggests taking steps such as encouraging owners to maintain safe homes, supporting and regulating landlords and agents to ensure they offer good-quality properties and improving home insulation.
Yesterday RoSPA said simple steps such as putting gates on stairs to prevent children falling, repairing worn carpets, making sure balustrades are strong and securing kitchen cupboards and appliances to walls could all help stop accidents and deaths.
The consultation is now open and ends May 20. For details visit: https://www.york.gov.uk/consultations