Essential learning on understanding the compulsion behind hoarding and supporting recovery

Join Deborah Barnett at Community Care Live London 2016 to learn about the tools required to provide suitable care and gain access to the T-ASC toolkit

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Deborah Barnett, managing director at T-ASC will be speaking on ‘Hoarding: Understanding the compulsion and supporting recovery’ at Community Care Live London 2016.

What is the focus of your session?

“I look at every surface and see piles of paperwork, where would you start? I try to prioritise, what is the most important, what am I really passionate about, what poses the greatest risk, but in the end everything is important, that is why it is there.”

‘They just tell me to clear the clutter and focus on the most important things, but what is important to me and what is important to another person are two different things.’

You could be forgiven for thinking that the quotes above are from people who hoard but they are actually comments I hear in training on a daily basis from practitioners. The frequency of these comments tend to increase when practitioners are faced with someone who hoards.

Social workers often feel very similar emotions to people who hoard. If you look at those quotes again, it could easily be from the perspective of a professional at work or a person who is hoarding.

The comments show conflicting views and perspectives and different ideas in terms of what is important. There are time and volume pressures and difficulty in separating emotional feelings from responsibilities. The issue of how and when to intervene can be very challenging and the consequences can create an additional burden. As a result it can seem easier to decide intervention is unachievable, particularly when there is little co-operation.

Practitioners can find themselves going around in circles with hoarding cases and repeating mistakes, which means they invest a lot of time and effort in what can be a frustrating situation.

I want to make a difference and help these practitioners so they can make a difference in the lives of some of the most marginalised and vulnerable people.

Why do you think this topic is important?

My session is about creating a toolkit, you start with the basics, the key tools that are fairly universal, then you begin to recognise and understand items that are more specialist. Practitioners have to recognise the tools for their work and how these are best used for each situation. As the practitioner gathers more tools and knowledge they become more competent, more confident and can achieve a more focussed perspective in difficult cases.

People are complex and therefore tools are not just about practical application of the law, but also about listening, information sharing and therapeutic intervention to help us understand. The real ingredients are found in the strengths of the person, their family and friends and the community around them. Binding these ingredients together in a way that works for them is the challenge.

The focus of my session is on the basic ingredients and tools to consider using when working with someone who hoards. It is my hope that you can begin to develop confidence in being creative, exploring possibilities and focus on what can be achieved, clearing your own clutter to support the person.


What is your favourite thing about working in social care?

My favourite thing about social care is being part of a great profession that seeks no false sentiment, no false generosity and no self-gratification. At the end of the day a great achievement is being useful until there comes a point when you are no longer needed by the person that you are working with. A great achievement is seeing happiness on a person’s face when they realise that they are safe. A great achievement is seeing a person who was once lonely, isolated and alone begin their own journey with family, friends and as part of their community.

Breaking down oppression and discrimination and empowering people is the key, identifying the barriers, finding the right ingredients to make it work and giving people the tools to feel confident. Whether this has been in my practice working 30 years in social care, or in my teaching, I can honestly say it has been difficult, frustrating, frightening on occasions, but rewarding, stimulating and interesting. I love journeys and my career shows all the ingredients of a great journey, including the diverse and varied people that I have met and learned from along the way. I hope to share some of this with you at the conference.

View the Community Care Live London 2016 programme

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