Norwich-based INTERACT, a partnership of local authorities, NHS and voluntary sector organisations, is helping vulnerable residents improve their housing situation and home environment.
The INTERACT team offers a co-ordinated approach of practical support, and has now secured funding to take it through to April 2026. It is made up of social prescribers from Age UK Norwich and Norfolk Citizens Advice, a care co-ordinator from OneNorwich Practices, a team co-ordinator and housing specialist from Norwich City Council and an integrated care co-ordinator from Norfolk County Council, supported by a volunteer development worker from Voluntary Norfolk.
Working in partnership and based with the Home Improvement Team at Norwich City Council’s offices, the initial two-year pilot scheme runs up until April 2024. However, its work has already proved so beneficial that the city council has added funding to the existing pot, meaning that this service for people living in rented or privately owned homes can be extended until April 2026.
INTERACT’s multi-agency approach is enabling it to give holistic support to people whose housing or home environment negatively impacts their health and wellbeing, allowing them to remain healthy, happy and living independently, by:
- Helping them to move to a home more suitable for their needs by helping identify properties and providing practical support with moving house;
- Supporting vulnerable people to get back on top of managing their home or garden, including through cleaning, decluttering or adapting their home;
- Providing wider support to increase people’s income and build their social support networks and resilience to future challenges;
- Reducing risk and demand on sectors such as NHS services, adult social care and housing providers.
So far, the team has had over 370 referrals from a wide range of partners, including adult social care, city council housing officers, NCH&C community matrons and the voluntary sector, demonstrating the significant need for the support it offers. Everyone supported by INTERACT has one or more long-term health issues, with over half on long-term sickness or disability benefits.
As a result of support from the team, many benefits exist which are helping to improve the health and wellbeing of communities across Norwich. Reduced respiratory problems, less medication required, reduced loneliness and isolation, improved use of local housing stock, a reduction in under-occupation/overcrowding in homes, improved access to Sheltered Accommodation or Housing with Care, and strengthened working relationships between districts, health, social care and other organisations, are just some of the benefits that working in this coordinated way can bring.
One service user, who was recently able to move into fresh accommodation with his family, told INTERACT: “I’d been trying to navigate the housing system for two years. I couldn’t have done it without you - you’ve been such a big help. I’m over the moon with how things have turned out. This has given me and the boys a fresh start and we are already happy here.”
The team’s work was recently praised by colleagues from NHS England, Tracey Bleakley, CEO of NHS Norfolk and Waveney, and Rt Hon Patricia Hewitt, Chair of NHS Norfolk and Waveney and Deputy Chair of Norfolk and Waveney Integrated Care Partnership, during a recent visit to City Hall, showcasing this excellent work taking place locally to help keep people well.
Rt Hon, Patricia Hewitt, said: “This is a shining example of the work that is taking place across Norfolk and Waveney to help people stay as well as they possibly can, looking holistically at the needs of our residents and communities. We know what there are multiple factors that influence the health and wellbeing of people. Having access to suitable housing, employment and social interaction is important to support both our physical and emotional health and wellbeing. This is why, examples like this, where the NHS, local authorities, our voluntary, community and social enterprise sectors, working together, is the only way we can truly support people to lead longer, healthier and happier, lives.”
Cllr Cate Oliver, Norwich City Council cabinet member for wellbeing and culture, said: “The early outcomes from the INTERACT pilot scheme demonstrates the potential of this dedicated team to have a real impact on the lives of people who are struggling with both mental and physical wellbeing due to their home environments not working well for them. Together with our partners in INTERACT, the council is delighted to support the delivery of proactive care and support in an area where it is so clearly badly needed and can do so much good.”