Hoarding problems in Suffolk soar following lockdowns - as more help is proposed

A project is being proposed to help people struggling with hoarding in East Suffolk

A project is being proposed to help people struggling with hoarding in East Suffolk, following a trial help scheme in the area - Credit: East Suffolk Council

Hoarding has become more widespread during Covid - and now a new project could be launched in East Suffolk to help people struggling with the problem.

Meanwhile, support organisations across the county, including Access Community Trust and Lofty Heights, have told of the growing need for decluttering help, amid pressure on mental health following lockdown.

East Suffolk Council's Community Partnership Board is set to consider a proposal for a £60,000 project to tackle hoarding at its meeting on Monday, September 6.

The aim is to offer support to tenants living in "squalid and unsanitary conditions" through the decluttering process,  and help to improve their mental wellbeing.

The board is being asked to approve funding of £22,000. Match funding of £37,500 is already in place from the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government (MHCLG) and  the ESC Covid Community Recovery Plan.

Access Community Trust, based in Lowestoft, would work with 30 individuals and households under the proposal, "to tackle severe self‐neglect and hoarding behaviours and provide support to implement life‐changing actions".

Referrals would also be made to many other organisations, enabling around 20 more people to receive support.

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The move comes after in 2019-20 East Suffolk Council carried out a pilot project. It was originally planned to run for three months - but was impacted by the pandemic and actually ran for 18 months.

A report to the council says: "There were a significant number of individuals whose hoarding behaviour was severe and whose living conditions were completely squalid and insanitary.

"These individuals were suffering from complex mental health conditions and needed long term-help."

A spokesman for Access Community Trust said there were many different types of hoarding, including books, paper, food and shopping. The charity offers services including decluttering and clearance as well as therapy.

One man it helped, described as Mr A, lives in a one-bedroom flat and has mobility problems which make it hard for him to go out.

The charity said: "He had not put any rubbish of any description out for the dustmen for at least six years. The culmination of rubbish meant that he could only access one arm chair and one half of his bed in his entire flat.

"The toilet and shower had been broken for as long as he could remember. He defecated in plastic bags and tied them up."

Mr A was very distressed and shamed by his condition, but the charity helped by clearing the flat and arranging a deep clean, sourcing him new furniture and having the sanitary ware repaired. 

He also agreed to receive help with his lower limb problems and engaged with the trust's wellbeing cafe service.

For more information on Access Community Trust or to donate, visit its website.

A kitchen in Haverhill belonging to a woman in her 70s, which Lofty Heights cleared 

A kitchen in Haverhill belonging to a woman in her 70s, which Lofty Heights cleared - Credit: Lofty Heights CIC

Lofty Heights sees demand for decluttering soar

The non-profit community interest company Lofty Heights, which is based in Ipswich and covers all of Suffolk, has also seen demand for decluttering and help with hoarding problems soar following lockdowns over the past 18 months.

Jaki Field, operations manager, said: "One reason why hoarding has increased is the stress and anxiety of lockdown. Last year we saw referrals up by 25% and at the start of this year we saw a rapid increase."

Mrs Field said it had been especially difficult for people suffering from anxiety and mental health problems when friends, family and some support services could not visit.

The team at Lofty Heights, a non-profit social enterprise which provides specialist decluttering services

The team at Lofty Heights, a non-profit social enterprise which provides specialist decluttering services - Credit: Curtis Beadle

She said some people who had been receiving support and had stopped hoarding items were then so stressed at the start of the pandemic they ended up stockpiling items.

"One person in the Stowmarket area filled a small shed with toilet rolls."

Lofty Heights CIC received a referral to its Homeward Bound service, which helps people returning home from hospital, in March last year.

"A lady in her 70s lived alone in Haverhill with carers attending three times a day to support her. The conditions in the home were such that the care agency was considering withdrawing care.

"This is only done in extreme circumstances, but has become more common over the last 14 months. It was found that family had been taking orders for food and arranging online deliveries, yet were unable to visit the property and see that the food was not being eaten and was rotting on the floor and worktops."

Lofty Heights carried out short remedial work to clean out the kitchen and enable space to be made to safely prepare food, and further work was done at a later date to carry out a more intensive clean.

For more information on Lofty Heights or to donate, visit its website.





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