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Developing a multi-agency approach to working with adults who hoard

At the Social Work Show in Manchester next week, Lei-Anne Granger and Jayne Mee will discuss the development of a multi-agency approach to helping adults who hoard.

27/09/23

Developing a multi-agency approach to working with adults who hoard

Despite its long history, hoarding has only recently been defined as a mental health problem.

In a seminar at next week’s Social Work Show in Manchester, Lei-Anne Granger, Assistant Team Manager and Jayne Mee, Hoarding Specialist, will discuss Tameside Adult Social Care’s role in developing a multi-agency approach to helping adults who hoard.

This work started as a result of a particularly challenging scenario. It emphasises the importance of challenging stigma, and the development of peer support groups.

In Tameside, earlier this year, a new partnership was formed with between Tameside Adults Safeguarding Partnership Board (TASPB), Greater Manchester Fire and Rescue Service, Jigsaw Homes Group and Ashton Pioneer Homes to help people whose homes were no longer safe because of hoarding. At that point, the partnership knew of 45 cases of hoarding behaviour across Tameside.

The Tameside Partnership took part in Hoarding Awareness Week, with a stand in Ashton Market Hall, to raise awareness, offer support and dispel some of the mythology and stigma around the disorder. Chief among the myths was the idea that hoarding is a lifestyle choice, or a consequence of laziness, rather than a complex psychological condition.

Hoarding Awareness Week is a national event which has been held annually since 2014. It was established the National Fire Chiefs Council and is run across political, health and social care sectors to raise awareness. The event has its own website and offers downloadable resources and videos of case histories.

Locally, Jigsaw Homes also launched a peer support group, based on the model of Hoarders Helping Hoarders, which is part of a network of local self-help and support groups across the North West.

The Tameside group now meets every two weeks and members discuss their hoarding behaviours, their successes and problems, and help each other to find solutions.

Across the region, the groups on the network offer advice and support to the wider community, including the families of hoarders, social workers and other professionals.

Given the isolation hoarders often feel because of their home circumstances, the groups emphasise the chance to make new friends who share that common bond – their website is headed ‘We are more than the sum of our stuff’ and introduces itself with ‘we support people whose possessions have taken over their lives.

‘We have been in the same position as you and lived in the same situation as you, for many years, that is why we started our group. To give hoarders a voice, support professionals in dealing with the issue, and help ourselves and others in any way we can,’ it says.

Nationally, it is estimated that 1.2 million people are directly affected by hoarding. There is no typical person – hoarding disorder affects people of all ages, across all socio-economic and ethnic groups. Hoarding disorder is usually associated with older people but it actually can begin in childhood; however, the average age at which people seek help or treatment is 50.

Hoarding disorder – as opposed to just having clutter -- is when items in home interfere with everyday living, affecting someone’s wellbeing and quality of life. Typically, hoarding may mean someone cannot use their kitchen or bathroom or other rooms in their home. It is marked by the inability to dispose of items. People often deny there is a problem, despite the impact on their living space, and the debilitating shame they feel, which stops them from allowing others into their homes.

There is a possible genetic propensity for Hoarding Disorder but the most common cause appears to be in the reaction to trauma involving loss. It can induce anxiety, depression and stress, which lead to more hoarding.

Attempts to clear the clutter provoke extreme distress, and often, the person may not see it as a problem, despite its impact on their quality of life. Loneliness, fear of throwing things away and health and safety concerns are also factors.

Left unaddressed, hoarding disorder can lead make the home, dangerous, especially in greater risk of house fires, give rise to concerns over child protection, infestation by rats and mice, and lack of self care. It can mean eviction through breach of tenancy.

Find out more about Tameside’s work with people for whom hoarding has become a problem, in a session led by Lei-Anne Granger and Jayne Mee with Tameside Borough Council
at the Social Work Show on Manchester on Monday 2nd October.

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