National Hoarding Awareness Week

This week is UK National Hoarding Awareness Week. A week of awareness (originally started by the Chief Fire Officers Association and launched by Parliament) it gives us the chance to make the Hoarding Disorder more well known and understood within our communities. 

Commonly mistaken as a disorder purely about collecting items and causing clutter; actually Hoarding Disorder is a mental health issue that is normally caused by some kind of trauma. If left untreated it can lead to more risks such as fire safety within the home as items build up, rodent problems, environmental impact, community issues and problems with neighbours as well as the ongoing mental issues that have been untreated.

As a housing association we are constantly finding new ways to help our customers to combat the disorder. We understand it’s not as simple as just tidying up the home, decluttering and simplifying the person’s lifestyle as the underlying issue is still there and can return, sometimes worse, as the person is more traumatised by the loss of all their previous collections. We need to work harder with our customers to ensure the underlying trauma is tackled first before we help with the clean up.

What are NDH doing?

We have recently dedicated more resource hours to help towards tackling Hoarding Disorder. We have sent members of our team on training courses to help and recognise the disorder and that team are now able to visit more customers with their training to help advise and highlight hoarding cases in North Devon. 

We’re also working closely with other organisations such as the Fire Service, Social Services and Professional Organisers in the area to ensure we can cover as much ground as possible. Each organisation can help in different ways, the Fire Service are obviously trying to keep our homes safe, making sure the home doesn’t pose a fire risk to ourselves, our families or our neighbours. As part of the Social Services safeguarding policy they now class Hoarding Disorder as self-neglect under the Care Act 2014 and so can intervene and offer help to Hoarders. Professional Organisers are usually trained in Hoarding Disorder so they are able to help, support and advise on the issues behind the clutter as well as to help get your home back under your control.

Why does it matter?

As well as the obvious matter of treating the mental health issue and ensuring the safety of our customers, when hoarding gets out of control there are many other factors that mean it’s important to tackle the problem.

To us, the cost of cleaning up a home after a hoarder is over £10,000. Between the clean up, repairs, cost to the family in the interim before they receive their home and missing rent costs for the weeks during turnover it all has a large impact overall. Hoarding is also a breach of the NDH Tenancy Agreement, which is why we want to help work with customers from the early stages to ensure they are able to keep their homes when they need them most.

If you’re considering moving out or doing a mutual exchange you will need to clean up your home before you’re able to move out without financial consequences. This is where NDH can help as we’ll be able to point you in the direction of services that can help with the clean up and the support services for the ongoing issues to allow you to leave your old home and start a fresh.

Hoarding Disorder, along with general lifestyle changes in the UK, is having an impact on the homelessness crisis. As we all acquire more belongings and have the need for ‘spare’ rooms and larger homes, we find house prices rising, more families being priced out of the market and in social housing, a lack of homes available for those that truly need them. If a three bedroom family home is being used by a Hoarder to store their collected items, it means that’s one less home available to a family in need.

Where can I find more help and advice?

There is a lot around on Hoarding Disorder at the moment, with many new TV shows highlighting the disorder on Netflix such as Tidying Up with Marie Kondo. As well as online and TV, as mentioned above, there are many organisations who are able to help or provide more information:

•    North Devon Homes (01271 312500)
•    Hoarding UK (www.hoardinguk.org)
•    Help for Hoarders (www.helpforhoarders.co.uk)
•    Fire Service (www.dsfire.gov.uk)