Hoarding can pose a health and safety risk - but help is available in the Peterborough area

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With up to five per cent of the population thought to be affected by hoarding - there’s a chance you, or someone you know, is a hoarder.

Considered to be a mental health disorder, hoarding is not a lifestyle choice, but can massively affect someone’s quality of life.

Some of the more severe cases often require help or intervention in order for the person to remain safe and healthy in their home. However, much understanding and compassion is needed for the hoarder to be able to cope with the process of decluttering.

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Here we mark National Hoarders Awareness Week (May 13 to 17) by shining a spotlight on the issue that affects so many - and what help is available to them.

Cambridgeshire and Peterborough Safeguarding Partnership Board works with various agencies to offer advice to those struggling with their hoard and say it’s important to encourage those affected to seek help.

Stephen Taylor, Director of Adult Services at Peterborough City Council, which works with the board, says: “Hoarding disorders are challenging to treat, because many people who hoard frequently don’t see it as a problem, or have little awareness of how it’s impacting their life or the lives of others. Many others do realise they have a problem, but are reluctant to seek help because they feel extremely ashamed, humiliated or guilty about it.

“It’s really important to encourage a person who is hoarding to seek help, as their difficulties discarding objects can not only cause loneliness and mental health problems, but also pose a health and safety risk.

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“If not tackled, it’s a problem that will probably never go away. The clutter can pose a health risk to the person and anyone who lives in or visits their house. For example, it can make cleaning very difficult, leading to unhygienic conditions and encouraging rodent or insect infestations; be a fire risk and block exits in the event of a fire; cause trips and falls; and collapse on people, if kept in large piles.”

Help is available for hoarders. Image for illustration only. Photo by Sandy Huffaker/Getty ImagesHelp is available for hoarders. Image for illustration only. Photo by Sandy Huffaker/Getty Images
Help is available for hoarders. Image for illustration only. Photo by Sandy Huffaker/Getty Images

The board has a ‘multi agency protocol’ for working with those with hoarding behaviours. It states that the protocol “recognises that responding to a situation which involves a person compulsively hoarding is highly complex, as it involves risk to life, is subject to more than one area of legislation and involves the health and wellbeing of the person at risk and any others in the household. It therefore requires a multi-agency approach.”

The agencies involved include Cambridgeshire Fire and Rescue Service, Cambridgeshire County Council, Peterborough City Council, Cambridgeshire and Peterborough NHS Foundation Trust, Registered Social Landlords and other community-focussed organisations.

There are various reasons someone may be affected by hoarding – from childhood trauma, to grief over losing a loved one, and the resulting desire to hold onto everything connected to that person.

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Some of the more severe cases of hoarding involve rooms filled floor to ceiling - with little room left for the occupant to live in.

From a fire safety perspective, such conditions present a real fire risk, making it more difficult for firefighters to tackle a blaze. As such, Cambridgeshire Fire and Rescue Service is also supporting the awareness week.

A spokesperson said: “We can provide advice in relation to promoting the health and safety of individuals with hoarding concerns, as well as providing valuable information to care providers.

“You can find out if you or a family member or friend are likely to be eligible for a free home fire safety check by calling the automated message line on 0800 917 9994 and leave a message including the persons name, address and daytime phone number to receive a call back.”

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Hoarding UK is a charity offering support to people affected by hoarding behaviours. They offer a national helpline, an advocacy service, information packs and in-home support. For more details, visit their website.

Are you or a loved one affected by hoarding? Get in touch by emailing [email protected]

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