Edinburgh to host UK’s first international hoarding conference

The UK’s first major conference on hoarding disorder is to be held in Edinburgh this autumn.

One of Scotland’s least understood mental health issues, compulsive hoarding happens when acquiring and saving items takes over a person’s life and it is a growing issue in the country.

The latest estimates reckon as many as 200,000 people in Scotland (around 4%) are affected by severe clutter – which makes hoarding more common than other better-known disorders such as Asperger’s Syndrome.

Later this year, Hoarding Disorder will become a newly classified mental health condition, and will be included in the 11th edition of the World Health Organisation’s International Classification of Diseases (ICD-11) publication.

And as well affecting a person’s health and wellbeing, compulsive hoarding can become a public health issue and serious fire risk. It is estimated the cost of clearing a house can be as high as £50,000, whilst the cost of removing and rehousing a child from a cluttered home can total £250,000.

Now Scotland is tackling the issue head-on, with an international conference on hoarding in October and a number of organisations, including the Scottish Fire & Rescue Service and Perth and Kinross Council, adopting new approaches to helping hoarders.

Linda Fay

“Until recently, health and social care teams were most likely to enforce ‘clear outs’ of people’s homes,” said Linda Fay, the founder of Life-Pod CIC, a social enterprise which helps people affected by clutter and hoarding.

“This is quite possibly the worst thing to do – as well as being extremely distressing for the sufferer, the recidivism (re-occurrence) rate following an enforced clear-out is 97 percent; making it an ineffectual exercise.”

“It is critical that those suffering with hoarding disorder are helped by trained professionals who understand the complexities of the condition. Scotland is already piloting new, multi-agency approaches, and this autumn we will host the UK’s very first hoarding conference – to explore the issue and showcase best practice,” said Linda.

The international event – Hoarding, Health and Housing – is being organised by Life-Pod and will take place at the Corn Exchange, Edinburgh, on October 4. It is aimed at health & social care, housing and emergency service professionals.

According to Fay, who is the UK’s only certified Hoarding Specialist, hoarding behaviours usually start in childhood and can be exacerbated by co-existing health problems and traumatic life events. If not treated properly, hoarding gets worse with age and often leads to loneliness and isolation.

So far Life-Pod has delivered hoarding awareness training to more than 1,200 related professionals across Scotland, but Linda believes there is still a long way to go.

“The inclusion by the World Health Organisation is a real step forward – it has highlighted a gap in knowledge and understanding of this complex condition by frontline practitioners who are required to provide support to those affected,” Linda said.

At the Hoarding, Health & Housing conference, attendees will hear from a number of experts, including world leading authority Dr Randy O. Frost and Dr Stuart Whomsley, clinical psychologist and co-author of ‘A Psychological Perspective on Hoarding’ published by the British Psychological Society.

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