Chris Grose and Sharon McLoughlin provide some top tips for housing providers dealing with hoarding issues.
Hoarding, also known as ‘hoarding disorder’ and previously referred to as ‘compulsive hoarding’, can have a significant impact on the hoarder themselves, neighbours, housing staff and housing providers in a number of different ways. It has historically been a hidden, but very present, concern for housing providers. However, an increase in media interest over the last few years has significantly raised awareness and has led to this disorder being recognised by many agencies as a new priority. However, which agency leads on a case is often a lengthy debate before support is provided, and there are many reasons a person may hoard (trauma, genetic propensity etc.) and is often a solution to a problem they do not know they have.
These individuals are potentially the most excluded and vulnerable members of our society; the frustrations you face in seeking help on their behalf is perhaps one they have experience of already. The anti-social behaviour ranges from verbal abuse, acts of vandalism to physical threats of violence. Many will have other health conditions that are not helped by their living conditions; it is important to lookout and recognise any health issues including drug and/or alcohol issues, mobility issues, fire and safety issues when visiting or meeting with the person(s). Not all hoarders live alone, there can be other family members within the household.
Often, for front-line officers, there are barriers which are often centred around confusing and conflicting thresholds set by other agencies not being met. This causes immense frustration as they refer from agency to agency only to be met with “it doesn’t meet our threshold” or the case is closed due to lack of engagement. For the person living in the hoarded conditions this can often lead to a pattern of rejection and increase further isolation and reluctance to engage.
Hoarding is a very complex condition and one that is very time consuming to manage.
What can be done?
Increased awareness around hoarding as a condition has assisted many local areas to create hoarding task forces, which enables a wide range of agencies to be involved, joint multi-agency ways of working with a clarity of roles and responsibilities for each agency with clear actions and outcomes.
How you can help
A good way to test your organisation’s approach to hoarding is to run a pilot project with a number of hoarding cases. This needs a set time scale and requires clear goals. Decide who will be involved. Give the project a name and develop a game plan.
The project should take a close look at staff training. Hoarding issues can be very upsetting for housing staff—they can feel exasperated, impatient, revolted, or angry when dealing with hoarded properties. This is a normal reaction, as it is our flight or fight drive kicking in. Training can help staff to understand hoarding disorder as well as their own feelings, and encourage them to use empathy and support with the tenants rather than fear and threats. Knowledge is power, so knowing your own reactions can help avoid some tensions—especially in those crucial first conversations.
- Don’t be afraid to challenge Adult Safeguarding Boards around their decision, ask them for advice on next steps and engage with the GP and fire service as per NHS guidelines.
- Understand what services are available in your area, map this and enter discussions with service providers.
- Read statutory agencies strategic and policy documents.
- Understand how the Care Act 2014 can assist you.
- Don’t let data protection be a barrier to sharing information.
The firm's ‘Home is where the hoard is’ project will develop these skills and also provide professionals with positive tactics and engagement to work with your clients to ensure effective support is offered and long-term outcomes can be achieved.
- Are you struggling to engage with residents that hoard?
- Are your staff lacking the right tools and knowledge to work with hoarders?
- Are you frustrated at the lack of partnership approaches when it comes to hoarding?
If the answer is "yes" to any of these questions then you are in luck! The project is about to get underway for the 3rd year running, and attendees will hear from Capsticks' associate consultant Sharon McLoughlin from Clouds End. Capsticks have worked in partnership with Clouds End and many housing providers’ over the past few years in tackling hoarding head on.