This page gives information on the different housing options available to people living with a mental illness. It is for people living with mental illness and their carers.
- There are different types of housing available. These include, living with family, independent living and supported accommodation.
- Where you are able to live will depend on your support needs. And what is available in your area.
- Different types of supported housing will give different levels of support.
- You will need to think about how you will pay for your housing.
What should I think about when choosing housing?
It can be difficult to know where to start when choosing your housing. You could start by asking yourself the following questions.
- What support do I need to live? This could include things like local transport links or being close to family.
- What are the different types of housing available in my area?
- How will I pay for housing?
A stable home life is key to your mental health and well-being.
What are the different types of housing?
Different types of housing will meet different needs. The main housing options are:
- independent living,
- supported accommodation, and
- living with family.
Independent living options are:
- owning your own home,
- renting from a council, housing association or private landlord, or
- sharing a house with other people.
Supported accommodation options are:
- supported accommodation,
- sheltered housing,
- residential care homes,
- shared lives schemes, and
- therapeutic communities.
There is often a waiting list for longer term housing. While you wait for a property, you may need to think about short-term housing options.
What is independent living?
You might be able to live independently with or without support.
If you live without support, you will have to manage your own time and run your home yourself. This will include making sure that rent, utility bills and council tax are paid on time.
If you need support to live independently you may be able to get help from the following people:
- friends and family
- community mental health team
- social services
- housing related support scheme.
Housing Related Support Scheme
Housing related support (HRS) used to be known as ‘Supporting People.’ You may be able to get help from HRS if you need support to live independently. HRS isn’t available in all areas of the country and support will be different in different areas.
HRS is funded by the local authority but is often provided by charities. This means that it is separate from support provided by the mental health team or social services.
You should be able to find out more information about HRS through your local council website.
Cost of living independently
Living independently can be expensive. You should think about how you will pay for the cost of housing and your living costs. Think about the cost of the following things:
- rent or mortgage,
- electricity and gas,
- water rates,
- council tax,
- food and drink,
- cleaning products and equipment, such as a vacuum cleaner,
- white goods, such as a fridge,
- appliances, such as a toaster and kettle,
- home or contents insurance,
- travel costs,
- clothing, and
- social costs, such as going out with friends.
An organisation such as Citizens Advice may be able to help you to work out your income and living costs. Citizens Advice can also check that you are claiming all the benefits that you may be entitled to.
The charity Turn2us have an online benefits calculator which you can use to work out what you may be entitled to. But the calculator is a guide only and it only includes ‘means tested’ benefits.
Contact details for Citizen’s Advice and Turn2us are in the Useful contacts section at the end of this page.
You can find more information about, ‘Welfare benefits’ at: www.rethink.org/advice-and-information/living-with-mental-illness/money-benefits-and-mental-health/
How do I find housing?
Council and Housing Association homes
Council and Housing Association homes are also known as ‘social housing.’ You can apply for social housing if you have a low income. Council and housing association housing tends to be cheaper than renting privately.
You can apply for council housing and housing association housing through your local council. There is usually a waiting list. You aren’t usually guaranteed to get housing. Use the link below for finding your local council:
Housing associations sometimes keep their own waiting lists. You can contact them directly to ask. You can search for housing associations through the internet. Or you can ask for details from your local council.
The wait will be different in different areas, but you will often have to wait a long time. Ask your council how long the wait is in your area.
Councils will decide who should get housing based on a points or banding system. The points or bands are based on your housing need. For example, you are likely to be offered housing more quickly if you:
- have a medical condition that is made worse by where you live at the moment,
- are homeless, or
- live in cramped conditions.
Your council will contact you when a suitable property becomes available or tell you about how to bid for a property. You will have a short period of time to accept a property that is offered to you. If you don’t accept a suitable property you may be put further down the waiting list. If you turn down several properties, you may be removed from the waiting list.
If you are homeless and have a mental illness, the council might have to find you housing urgently. Please see the section below for more information.
Renting privately or buying
You can look for housing through estate agents, letting agencies or by searching online.
If you are renting you may need to give a deposit of roughly one month’s rent. There may be a local scheme to help you if you are on a low income and can’t afford rent in advance or the deposit. You could contact your local council and see if they have any details of these schemes in your area.
If you are buying property, there are government schemes in place to help you. An example would be the ‘help to buy ISA.’ The scheme helps you to save for a deposit. It is provided by some banks and building societies. Contact a bank or building society for more information.
Another government scheme is ‘Shared Ownership.’ You may be able to apply for this if you can’t afford to buy the whole property. You will own 25%, 50% or 75% of your property. You will pay rent on the remaining amount.
If you have a low income you might be able to:
- get universal credit to help pay your rent
- get support for mortgage interest (SMI) on the part of the property that you own.
There is more information about universal credit and SMI in the later sections of this page.
You can contact your local council or follow the link below for more information about shared ownership.
Can I buy my council house or housing association property?
If you already live in a council property you may be able to buy your property. This is called the ‘right to buy’ scheme.8 Contact your local council or follow the below link for more information about right to buy.
If you already live in a housing association property you may be able to buy your property. This is called ‘right to acquire’ scheme. Contact your housing association, council or follow the link below for more information about right to acquire.
Can I swap my council or housing association with another tenant?
You might be able to swap your home with someone else who wants to move. This is often called, ‘mutual exchange’. You can register to swap your property online. The link is below:
Some council areas will have a Facebook page where you can list your house for swap. You can also see what other properties are available. Your local council can give you details on how to access the page.
What is supported accommodation?
Supported accommodation may be an option if you need some support but also want some independence.
You may need short term supported accommodation to help you to live independently. For example, if you have just come out of hospital. Or you may need long-term supported accommodation.
Supported accommodation covers a wide range of different types of housing. It generally means a housing scheme or service where housing support, and care services are provided altogether. It can mean that you get support in your home. This is called ‘floating support.’ Or that you live in a certain place to get the level of support that you need.
Supported housing services offer low, medium and high levels of support. There is no official definition about what each of these levels mean. But generally low-level support means that you have a few hours per week of support.
Floating support would be an example of low-level care. High level will mean that you need up to 24 hours support each day. Some supported housing services will be long term. Others will have a time limit on how long you can stay there.
Supported group flats and housing
The term ‘supported housing’ is most used to describe supported group flats and housing services.
Supported housing will usually mean that you live in a block or group of flats or houses with other people who need some support. They may have similar support needs to you. You may offer each other support.
Often accommodation is self-contained, but you may share communal areas such the lounge, utilities and garden.
You can live independently, but there should be 24-hour emergency support available if you need it. Often there will be support onsite. You may live in supported housing and still get help from a community care team.
Sheltered housing and supported housing are very similar services. Sheltered housing usually means housing for older people, rather than people with mental illness. But some sheltered housing services allow people with mental illness to live there.
Sheltered housing is often a long-term housing option for people. Most sheltered housing is provided by local councils or housing associations.
Hostels offer short term accommodation. You may be placed in a hostel while you are waiting for more permanent accommodation.
Each hostel will offer a different level of support. Many hostels are for specific groups of people, such as people who have mental illness, homeless people, women or young people. You may live in a hostel and still get help from a community care team.
Registered care homes
Care homes can help if you need 24-hour support. You usually have your own bedroom and bathroom. You will share common living areas with other residents. Meals are provided for you.
Shared lives scheme
Shared lives scheme is an alternative to home care and care homes. It used to be known as an ‘adult placement scheme’. It means that you will either live with a person who cares for you, or you will regularly visit your carer for support.
Your carer will be registered with the shared lives scheme. You can get short or long-term support. The scheme isn’t available in all areas.
You can find out more about shared lives schemes on Shared Lives Plus’s website. It can be found in the Useful contacts section, at the bottom of this page.
Therapeutic communities may help if you have a long-term emotional condition which makes it difficult for you to live in your normal community.
They may also be helpful if you have reoccurring psychosis. Therapeutic communities are set up differently in different areas. They aren’t available in all areas. Often you will live there short term or you will visit regularly as part of your treatment.
Therapeutic communities aim to improve your social skills through group therapy and structured activities. This helps you work towards living in the outside community.
You can find out more about therapeutic communities on The Consortium for Therapeutic Communities website. It can be found in the Useful contacts section, at the bottom of this page.
Finding supported accommodation
Local authorities, housing associations or charities run supported housing services.
Usually charities and housing associations will only accept a housing referral from a council or community mental health team. But some accept self-referrals.
The local housing department, social services or your local community mental health team should be able to tell you what supported accommodation services are in your area. Or you can search online.
You can often apply for supported accommodation through your local council website. The link is below.
You may be able to get supported housing by asking for a social care assessment from social services. This is called a ‘needs assessment.’
Supported housing will be offered to you if you have a high need. You may have to pay for housing services. This will depend on your income and savings.
If you have a care coordinator, speak to them about your housing needs. Your housing needs should be considered under the ‘care programme approach’ (CPA). CPA is a package of care that is given to people who have complex mental health care needs.
You can find more information about:
How do I pay for housing?
Arranging to pay for housing is as important as finding somewhere suitable to live. You may be able to get help towards housing costs if you are on a low income or unable to work. The help available may cover some or all the cost of housing.
Below are some options for how you can fund your home.
Universal credit is a benefit to help people on low incomes. Universal credit can help you to pay your rent. You can’t use it to pay your mortgage.
Your eligibility for universal credit will depend on things like:
- if you have to pay rent for the property you live in,
- your age,
- your income, savings and capital,
- who lives with you, and
- the size of the accommodation.
Support for Mortgage Interest (SMI) loan
Support for Mortgage Interest (SMI) is to help to pay the interest on your mortgage. SMI is a loan and you will need to repay it with interest when you sell your house or transfer ownership. You may be able to claim SMI if you live in a mortgaged property and claim:
- Income-related Employment Support Allowance (ESA),
- Income Support,
- Income-related Jobseekers Allowance (JSA),
- Universal Credit, or
- Pension credits.
Your mortgage is a type of loan. As with any loan, your bank will charge you interest on the money that they lend to you. SMI will help you to pay the interest of your mortgage. It won’t help you pay back the actual amount you borrowed.
SMI can help with interest payments on a loan up to value of £200,000. But if you claim pension credits or you were claiming ESA, JSA or universal credit before 2009, it only helps with loans up to £100,000.
You can start getting payments for SMI:
- after receiving 9 consecutive payments of UC,
- straight away if you are claiming pension credit, and
- after claiming other eligible benefits for more than 39 straight weeks.
You can get more information on SMI here: www.gov.uk/support-for-mortgage-interest
Section 117 aftercare
You may be able to get free specialist accommodation if you are entitled to Section 117 after-care. You might be entitled to Section 117 after-care if you have been detained in hospital under some sections of the Mental Health Act. Section 3 and Section 37 are the most common. You won’t get Section 117 if you have been detained under Section 2 only.
Section 117 after-care won’t cover the cost of ordinary housing. Ordinary housing is a house or flat that you rent privately or through social housing.
Section 117 after-care will end when you no longer need mental health support from services to stay well.
You can find more information about:
- Section 117 Aftercare by clicking here.
You can find more information about ‘Welfare benefits and mental illness’ and ‘Universal Credit’ at: www.rethink.org/advice-and-information/living-with-mental-illness/money-benefits-and-mental-health/
What if I have problems with housing?
You may have problems with your housing. Some common housing problems are:
- Disagreement with your landlord.
- A landlord refusing to rent a property to you as you claim benefits. It’s unlawful for a letting agent or landlord to not let a property to you simply because you claim welfare benefits. It’s unlawful discrimination and in breach of sections 19 and 29 of the Equality Act 2010.
- The home you rent needs repair.
- Issues with shared accommodation.
If you are having issues with housing you can get advice from:
- Your local Citizens Advice
- A local housing advice organisation
You can search for local housing advisers by using the following website.
Turn 2 Us: www.advicefinder.turn2us.org.uk/
The contact details for Shelter and Citizens Advice are in the Useful contacts section at the bottom of this page.
What about homelessness?
Your local authority has a duty to provide accommodation for some people who are homeless. These people are known as ‘priority need.’
You are classed as priority need if you are vulnerable because of your mental illness. You can also be classed as priority need for other things.
You can find out more at this link:
If you are a priority need you should be offered emergency accommodation. You may be placed in temporary accommodation such as a hostel or bed and breakfast.
Tell the council if you think the accommodation they want to put you in will have a bad effect on your mental health.
If you have a care coordinator, speak to them about your housing needs. Your housing needs should be considered under the ‘Care programme approach’ (CPA). CPA is a package of care that is given to people who have complex mental health care needs.
You can get further advice and information about homeless from the charity Shelter here:
You can search for homelessness services in England on Homeless Link’s
website. You can find their details in the Useful contacts section at the bottom of this page.
You can find more about ‘Care programme approach’ by clicking here.
Carers & family
What about living with family?
Many people live in the family home because of the high cost of housing. You may value the support of having family around you if you have a mental illness.
You and your family will need to think about the amount of support that you need. And what support they can give you. If you need more support than your family can give, you may be able to get extra support through your NHS community mental health team or social services. You will need to contact them and ask for a ‘needs assessment.’
Your family and carers can have their carer’s needs assessed by social services. This is called a ‘carer’s assessment.’ The carer’s assessment should look at the care that your family and carers give to you. And find out what support your carer needs.
You can find more information about:
- Social care assessment: under The Care Act 2014 by clicking here.
- Carers assessment under the Care Act 2014 by clicking here.
What if I am a carer, family member or friend?
How can I support my relative to live independently?
You might be concerned that your relative isn’t able to look after themselves. You can ask social services for a social care assessment for your relative. This is called a ‘needs assessment.’
Social services will assess your relative to see how their illness affects their day to day living. They will assess their needs and the impact that their needs have on their family or support network.
But the needs assessment won’t be done if your relative doesn’t want the assessment.
Can I buy a property for my relative?
If you can buy a property for your relative, it is unlikely that your relative would be able to claim universal credit to help with housing costs. But it is possible in special cases.
You can speak to a welfare rights advisor at Citizens Advice or seek legal advice before you buy a house for your relative. Contact information for Citizens Advice is in the Useful contacts section at the bottom of this page.
I’m worried that my relative is too unwell to make a decision about where to live. What can I do?
If you believe that your relative may lack mental capacity, you could ask social services for a mental capacity assessment. Your relative may lack mental capacity if they can’t:
- understand information,
- remember information,
- weigh up information to make a decision, or
- communicate a decision.
A decision can be made in your relatives ‘best interests’ if they are assessed as lacking mental capacity.
You can find more information about:
- Social care assessment: under The Care Act 2014 by clicking here.
- Mental capacity and mental illness by clicking here.
You can find more information about ‘Welfare benefits and mental illness’ at: www.rethink.org/advice-and-information/living-with-mental-illness/money-benefits-and-mental-health/
Where can I get advice and support?
If you would like advice about your housing options, you could speak to the following people:
- Citizens Advice
- Local housing advice organisations
- The housing department at your local council
- The Disability Law Service
- Your care co-ordinator or support worker, if you have one
You can search for local housing advisers by using the following website:
Turn 2 Us: www.advicefinder.turn2us.org.uk/
The charity Disability Law Service can give advice on certain aspects on the following areas of housing: homelessness, possession, unlawful eviction, defending ASBO’s and landlord harassment. They also advise on social care issues and welfare benefits.
Contact information for Shelter, Citizens Advice and the Disability Law Service is in the Useful contacts section at the bottom of this page.
If you need legal advice you could speak to a housing solicitor. But you may need to pay a fee. You may be able to get free legal advice from local law universities or a law centre. Search online to see what is available in your area. Free legal advice isn’t available in all areas.
You can find more information about, ‘Legal advice’ by clicking here.
Your local council website should have useful information about housing schemes in your area.
The leading housing charity in the UK. They offer advice and help on all aspects of housing, including homelessness and poor housing through their online advice service and free phone telephone advice line. They can also direct you towards local housing organisations in your area.
Telephone: 0808 800 4444 (open from 8am to 8pm Monday to Friday, 8am to 5pm Saturday and Sunday)
Give free advice to help you to sort housing, legal, money and other problems.
Telephone: 03444 111 444
A national membership charity for organisations working directly with people who become homeless in England. They work to make services better and campaign for policy change that will help end homelessness.
Address: Minories House, 2-5 Minories, London EC3N 1BJ
Phone: 020 7840 4430
Link to search for homelessness services:
Disability Law Service
Give free advice to people on certain areas of law including social care and some areas of housing.
This is the government organisation that deals with new or existing benefit claims including Employment and Support Allowance, Jobseekers’ Allowance, Income Support, Universal Credit and Support for Mortgage Interest.
Telephone: 0800 055 6688 (Monday to Friday 8am to 6pm)
Textphone: 0800 023 4888 (Monday to Friday 8am to 6pm)
Pension Credit Claimline
This is the number to call if you want to make a claim for Support for Mortgage Interest and you receive Pension Credit.
Telephone: 0800 99 1234 (Monday to Friday 8am – 7.30pm)
Textphone: 0800 169 0133 (Monday to Friday 8am – 7.30pm)
NGT text relay (if you cannot hear or speak on the phone): 18001 then 0800 99 1234 (Monday to Friday 8am – 7.30pm)
The Consortium for Therapeutic Communities
A charity for all those connected with, interested or involved in the delivery of relationship-based support and treatment.
Telephone: 01242 620077
Address: Waterfront, Kingsdown Road, Walmer, Kent, CT14 7LL
Shared Lives Plus
The UK network for Shared Lives and Home Share.
Grants and benefits specialist charity. They can help you access benefits, charitable grants and support services.