Neighbourhood Renewal Evaluation Essay
Self-reported health improved at Wave 2. Whilst 17.7% of respondents in the Baseline survey had rated their health as "poor", this dropped to 10.5% by one year later (t = 2.5; p = 0.01). Although the improvement is statistically significant, there was no association between change (increase, same, or decrease) in the number of housing problems reported, and change in health (worse, better, the same) (χ2 = 0.16; p = 0.13). The mean SF-36 mental health scores changed little over time, from 58.3 at Baseline, to 59.2 one year later (p = 0.51). In contrast to mental health, there was a significant increase in SF-36 vitality scores (means of 42.3 and 51.5, respectively; p < 0.001), low SF-36 vitality scores being an indicator of fatigue/exhaustion.
Qualitative data on housing change
Improvements were also clear from the qualitative data we collected, which suggest that people experienced improvements in wellbeing, and in particular a reduction in stress, both within the family unit and in relations with neighbours. This appears to be related to having greater space, privacy and a safer, more peaceful local environment.
Many of the respondents also reported that they had more time to relax in their new house; they felt less stressed, were happier and felt secure. For example, this respondent spoke about her health and that of her son:
'I'd say our health has improved... now here we are just over a year on and we are a lot more content, we are a lot more settled, and we are a lot more happier because I feel like my head's back and I'm not needing anti-depressants and things, you know. I'm feeling a lot more positive...."
For many respondents, the greater space and privacy in their new homes was the greatest benefit of the move. In particular it meant that children had separate rooms rather than having to share with a sibling. For one interviewee, this meant "a happier house". For another respondent, a larger kitchen now meant enough room for a tumble drier and washing machine, and for another it meant that the family did not have to eat from their laps in the sitting room.
One frequently mentioned benefit of the new homes was the greater space resulting from having a garden. Some parents commented that with more garden access their children were getting out and about more, while gardens also provided space in which they could sit out and relax, or choose to socialise with their neighbours.
Many of those interviewed stated that there had been significant improvements in health, either for children in the household or for themselves. For example:
"...when he was younger he was quite wheezy for a while and it always seemed to be in the winter when the heating was on... they actually thought that he was going to develop asthma, but since being over here, he's been fine."
Another interviewee said:
"...they don't get quite so many colds as they used to and because we lived in a damp house when [son] was a baby it affected his chest [...] his chest is not quite so bad because we're living in a drier atmosphere."
One man with respiratory problems thought his health had improved since moving in:
"Well, I've not been admitted to the hospital since I've come round here... [I'm] ... a lot healthier than what I used to be. As I say, I've got more freedom of movement because I'm getting into fresh air a lot more, which is probably helping as well."
Another participant stated that his wife had also been able to come off anti-depressants, whose use the couple felt was related to the problems they had been experiencing with drug addicts using the close (that is, the stairwell or common area) of their previous home. The change in the health of both of them was, the husband thought, 'immediate'. A few respondents also reported that they were thinking about making changes to health-related behaviours, such as smoking.
There were also many who identified no change in their health, some of whom simply thought that they were getting older and that any change in wellbeing was simply the result of this process. Similarly, others noted no change in smoking:
"Just the same. I know, I'm not meant to be doing it but I do it."
Another interviewee reported that as well as continuing to smoke, her diet may have become more unhealthy:
"I smoke more now than I ever do, but that's just me, I've always been a heavy smoker ... I've got a wee bit more money than I did over there [...] there're definitely always more crisps in the cupboard, more sweeties in the cupboard..."
When the People and Place Strategy was published in 2003 a commitment was given to carry out and publish an interim and final evaluation. An interim evaluation of Neighbourhood Renewal programme was carried out in 2010/11 and a final review in late 2014.
Neighbourhood Renewal - People and Place
In June 2003, Government launched Neighbourhood Renewal - People and Place. Neighbourhoods in the most deprived 10 per cent of wards across Northern Ireland were identified resulting in 36 areas being targeted for intervention.
Neighbourhood Renewal mid-term review
The Evaluation of the Neighbourhood Renewal Strategy - Mid-Term Review took place in 2010/11 and determined the extent to which the policy was meeting its objectives.
Neighbourhood Renewal final review
The Evaluation of the Neighbourhood Renewal Strategy – Final Review was carried out independently by RSM McClure Watters in late 2014. It gives an assessment of the delivery model, overall impact and the lessons learned.
This is important particularly for the Councils as they take forward their plans and policies for tackling deprivation through Community Planning.
If you have any queries please contact Neighbourhood Renewal Unit.