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Gap widens between children in social housing and peers

They scored lower in measures of adulthood health, well-being, education, employment and income than those who did not grow up in social housing. And this gap has grown over time.

Commissioned by the Tenant Services Authority (TSA), in partnership with the Joseph Rowntree Foundation (JRF) and the Scottish Government, the study draws on the four British birth cohort studies, which track people born in 1946, 1958, 1970 and 2000, to examine the role of social housing in four generations of families.

It also found that for those born in 1946, social housing was high quality and had a rich social mix. In successive generations, children growing up in social housing were more likely to come from disadvantaged families and to have disadvantaged neighbours, and less likely to be in high quality, desirable homes. However, it is not proven that social housing in childhood itself causes disadvantage later on.

The background characteristics of children and their families explained all the differences for the earliest generation, and still explain a major part for later generations born in 1958 and 1970.

TSA Chief Executive Peter Marsh said: "I welcome this research as a timely challenge. There needs to be co-ordinated action to tackle inequality. This research reinforces the need for social housing policy to be integrated within a wider context, with education, childcare and neighbourhood policies. We also need to re-examine the role of allocation policies as well as new-build policies if we are to recreate the sort of mixed income communities we saw in post-war social housing. It cannot be seen as simply bricks and mortar."

JRF Chief Executive Julia Unwin said: "We need to ensure that social housing is of the highest quality, and increase its social mix. However, policies to reduce child poverty or to support disadvantaged families are likely to be a more effective route to reducing adult disadvantage than trying to change the whole housing system."

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