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RTPI response to DHSC mental health and wellbeing plan consultation

RTPI response to the Department of Health and Social Care Consultation.

In what capacity are you responding to this survey?

On behalf of an organisation (in an official capacity representing the views of that organisation)

What is the name of your organisation?

Royal Town Planning Institute

Which sectors does your organisation work in?

Private. Public. Academic.

The RTPI champions the power of planning in creating prosperous places and vibrant communities. We have over 25, 000 members in the private, public, academic and voluntary sectors. Using our expertise and research we bring evidence and thought leadership to shape planning policies and thinking, putting the profession at the heart of society’s big debates. We set the standards of planning education and professional behaviour that give our members, wherever they work in the world, a unique ability to meet complex economic, social and environmental challenges. We are the only body in the United Kingdom that confers Chartered status to planners, the highest professional qualification sought after by employers in both private and public sectors.

What type of organisation are you responding on behalf of?

Not-for-profit organisation

What type of not-for-profit organisation are you responding on behalf of?


How can we help parents or primary caregivers of infants to improve their own wellbeing, and the wellbeing of their families?

Numerous studies have shown the importance of environmental and social factors in shaping both physical and mental health. However, while planning principles for the design of healthy places are now, by and large, widely accepted (at least, at a normative level) their translation into actual intervention through design or in practice, remains often problematic.
We believe that decent, affordable housing, access to essential services and amenities, green spaces, access to playgrounds and vibrant high streets would all help parents or primary caregivers of infants to improve their own wellbeing and the wellbeing of their families.

How can we help children and young people to improve their own wellbeing?

By making sure that children and young people - regardless of their gender, cultural backgrounds and abilities - have access to decent housing, well-funded schools and places of recreation. By empowering children in giving them the opportunity to shape their environment. By facilitating access to locally grown (healthy) food, promoting physical exercise and the sustainable modes of transportation.

How can we help working age adults to improve their own wellbeing?

In a similar way – by facilitating access to affordable, decent housing; access to amenities; access to healthy (locally grown) food. By promoting sustainable modes of transportation; by encouraging walking and physical exercise.

How can we help older adults to improve their own wellbeing?

In a similar way and – by creating better environments for people living with dementia.
There are around 850,000 people living with dementia in the UK. This figure is projected to increase to 1.6 million people by 2040. People living with dementia may experience the built environment differently to other people. Evidence has shown that good quality housing and well-planned, enabling local environments can have a substantial impact on the quality of life for someone living with dementia, helping them to live well in their community for longer (for more information, please refer to our publication - Dementia and Town Planning)

How can we improve the wellbeing of children and young people?

The quality of the built environment and access to nature have a significant impact on the quality of children’s lives. There are a set of design principles that should be considered when creating child-friendly places. These can be applied to many settings - urban or rural, new development or existing settlement. For instance;

First, places should be ‘welcoming’ – that is, designed to help children develop a sense of belonging. There are a variety of cues to indicate they are welcome, including signage, design and layout. There are opportunities to socialise through play and gathering. Local – everyday services (schools, shops, play areas etc.) are located safe, walkable, distances from homes. The principles of the 15-minute city/20-minute neighbourhood apply. Having local access to services fosters independence of movement as children grow.

Second, places should be ‘engaging’ – children and young people should be involved in the design of the places where they live, travel and visit. Their needs should be met because they have been consulted.

Third, places should be ‘sustainable’ – they should be built using the principles of sustainable development, being of high quality, adaptable and built to last. They should engage and promote children and young people’s understanding sustainable design. They should be built to adapt to and mitigate against climate change.

Fourth, places should be designed with a variety of opportunities for play. At home with the provision of outside space, as part of a journey as an integrated part of neighbourhood design and in designated play areas. Play space should be provided at a variety of scales and suitable for a range of ages and activities. The design of play spaces should be fun, imaginative and responds to the local context.

Fifth, children and young people should have free access to greenspace and nature near their homes. Green space should be provided at a variety of scales, from doorstep greenspace through street trees, to pocket parks and play areas and sports fields. There should be a mixture of managed and natural spaces.

Sixth, places should be designed to cater for diverse communities. They should be built to accommodate the needs of children terms of their age, gender, ethnicity, ability, income and culture etc. There should be opportunities for intergenerational interactions. Spaces should be flexible and multi-use and able be used for play, socialising, rest, learning, and other activities.

Finally, places should be designed to give children and young people (and their parents and guardians) the confidence to use them. They should have natural surveillance, be well maintained and risk assessed. Housing provision should be affordable and well located. Traffic should be minimised with safe walking and cycling routes. For more information please see our report (Child Friendly Planning in the UK: A Review)

How can we improve the wellbeing of working age adults?

In similar ways – and;
- By promoting access to natural settings in neighbourhoods and the course of people’s daily routines through public and private gardens, creating liveable streets and accessible public spaces.
- By embedding opportunities for activity as part of day -to-day lives, with opportunities for exercise, social interactions, active travel and access to public transport.
- By encouraging active co-production and stewardship of urban design facilitating positive, safe and natural interactions among all people to promote an integrated sense of community, belonging and meaning;
- By fostering a sense of safety and security through appropriate lighting and surveillance permeability, legibility and people-centric design.
For more information please see our report (Enabling Healthy Placemaking : overcoming barriers and learning from best practices)

How can we improve the wellbeing of older adults?

In similar ways – and, by refusing permission for isolated retirement housing.

How can we support different sectors within local areas to work together, and with people within their local communities, to improve the populations’ wellbeing?

Through adequate funding, use of digital modes of communication, engagement with local community leaders and innovative partnerships.

What is the most important thing we need to address in order to reduce the number of working age adults who experience mental ill-health?

Provide decent, affordable housing in the right locations (with access to services and amenities).

What do you think are the most important issues that a new, 10-year national mental health plan needs to address?

Wellbeing and health promotion, Prevention, Early intervention and service access

Please explain your choices

Some mental health issues can potentially be prevented (or dealt with through early intervention and service access). Focusing on prevention (or early intervention) should include a focus on wellbeing and health promotion (in general). Although the factors that determine wellbeing and health promotion are complex - housing, access to green spaces and access to essential amenities and services greatly determine both physical and mental health.

What ‘values’ or ‘principles’ should underpin the plan as a whole?

Spatial Equality - viz. everyone (regardless of their status, postcode or location) should have access to the same level and quality of care.

How can we support local systems to develop and implement effective mental health plans for their local populations?

With adequate funding and by fostering collaboration between (mental) health services and other services.

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