A new hoarding protocol has been developed and adopted by Woking Borough Council in collaboration with a number of partner organisations, providing guidance to staff working with people experiencing hoarding behaviours.
Hoarding is classified as a mental disorder, defined as the excessive collection and retention of materials to the point it impedes a person’s day to day functioning. As well as the more widely known hoarding of objects, such as clothes, newspapers or food, hoarding can also refer to the collection of animals or data.
Many people who hoard experience symptoms such as fear and anxiety, social isolation, extreme cluttering of their living space, and impairment to their work and social life. They can be reluctant to reach out for help due to the way others view their behaviour.
The new protocol aims to ensure that there is a meaningful, coordinated response between partners in order to facilitate positive outcomes for residents. Through partnership working, practices have been put in place to allow for information sharing between organisations to improve understanding of hoarding and develop a range of both formal and informal solutions.
As the common treatments for hoarding, including cognitive behavioural therapy, skills training and medication, are so diverse, collaboration between partners is key in order to support resident needs.
Cllr Ellen Nicholson, Woking Borough Council’s Portfolio Holder for Living Well, said: “Hoarding is an extremely complex behaviour which can be very difficult to tackle, especially as it often requires many different organisations.
“It is positive to see that more support is being put in place to help those experiencing these behaviours, especially in this collaborative manner which will help produce long term results.
“Now that more structured support is in place, I hope that residents struggling to cope as a result of hoarding feel able to reach out and receive the guidance they need to live in safe and comfortable surroundings again.”
As part of the protocol, Woking Borough Council is employing a full-time Hoarding Project Officer funded by the North West Surrey Alliance, who is dedicated to maintaining the aims of the protocol. Additionally, all staff from the partnership organisations will be undertaking hoarding training in October 2022.
The framework has been developed in partnership with a number of organisations, including the North West Surrey Alliance, Surrey County Council and Surrey Fire and Rescue Service.