Hoarding is a little-understood issue. Nonetheless, we must work together to develop solutions
The triggers for hoarding are generally unknown. This can make passing on knowledge about the issue challenging. It can be attributed to traumatic events or to mental health conditions, including obsessive-compulsive disorders, dementia, depression, anxiety, alcohol and drug misuse, or it can be a family trait, or prevalent in those living alone. It is certainly an individualised condition. Hoarders can build up stores of everything from books and newspapers to teddy bears and electrical goods.
Despite this variety, in July 2011 a knowledge-transfer partnership between Orbit and Coventry University started developing the country’s first multi-agency use toolkit to deal with hoarding.
Gaining access to the clients hasn’t been a problem - in fact, they’ve been very forward in wanting to join the project and support the work. Getting them to engage with changing their own behaviour is the real difficulty. They can often be holding on to objects because they feel they will be useful either for themselves, or someone else in the future. It isn’t the only problem - challenges range from helping others understand hoarding to dealing with media interest.
As the KTP associate on the project, I am in the slightly odd position of being employed by Coventry University, but working in-house at Orbit. This provides an interesting insight for me, as I am an occupational therapist by trade and not a ‘housing person’, but I’d also like to think it brings a different viewpoint and skills into Orbit.
Much of my role is working with caseworkers, identifying the effective assessments and interventions to be included in the toolkit. I work with them on service evaluation, looking at current procedures and practices. This includes reviewing timescales and costs, such as for interventions and clear-outs, to form a comprehensive picture of what it takes to deal with a hoarding client.
I have worked first-hand with many of Orbit’s clients, but I will be working specifically closely with three or four of them to pilot the toolkit. Through the project both myself and Orbit have formed stronger bonds with others with knowledge or practical experience of hoarding. A big part of this has been through the setting up of an advisory group, bringing together key organisations to share knowledge.
Yet, as mentioned, the transfer of knowledge still proves tricky. However, the KTP is without doubt a worthwhile project, providing what should be an innovative and useful tool for others, coupled with a learning experience for Orbit, Coventry University and myself.
Roland Simmons is leading the hoarding knowledge-transfer partnership