Conference On Fire And Health Risks Of Hoarding Staged For First Time In Merseyside

A national conference on hoarding and the fire and health risks it can pose to people has been staged in Liverpool.

It is the first time the national conference on hoarding has been held in Merseyside.

Deputy Chief Fire Officer Phil Garrigan who opened the conference at the Merseyside Fire & Rescue Service Training and Development Academy in Croxteth, said: “Hoarding piles of combustible materials can cause a greater risk of fire, can block fire escapes and prevent firefighters from readily accessing the property should there be a fire. So it is really pleasing that we are focusing on tackling this growing issue and that we are putting the person at the centre of our collective responses.

“As a Service we have found that compulsive hoarders are often less able to carry out repairs in their property and clutter may prevent contractors from being able to access the property freely thus preventing important safety checks and repairs taking place, subsequently placing the tenant or homeowner at greater risk.”

The conference, which was staged by the Fire Support Network, a charity who work in partnership with Merseyside Fire & Rescue Service, saw 70 delegates from a number of organisations including fire and rescue services, public health, mental health charities, environmental health, housing associations and research universities come together to tackle the issue. The conference was also attended by the Deputy Police and Crime Commissioner in Merseyside, Councillor Ann O’Byrne.

The conference took place on December 3.

The conference is being staged after a 12-month project was launched earlier this year to help compulsive hoarders and prevent fires taking place in Wirral.

Karen Lavery, Community Welfare Manager at Fire Support Network, said “The pilot project aimed to address the issue of hoarding at 30 Wirral properties and was launched in April. Since it started more than 40 tonnes of waste materials have been removed from Wirral properties and ongoing support is being provided to 30 individuals. In total Fire Support Network has received 43 referrals so it is clear that the service is needed.

“The ultimate aim of our project we launched this year is to improve the health and wellbeing of the person living in the property allowing them access to a range of different services.”

Karen added: “We are keen to expand the project regionally and nationally and develop a best practice model. We have developed this approach having been dealing with the issue of hoarding for the past eight years. We now believe we have a model that works. Agencies individually find it hard to tackle the issue, so we have come up with a multi-agency approach.

“If you feel like someone in your community may need help please call us on 0151 2964337 to make a referral.”

The Fire Support Network (FSN) and partners in Wirral including the local authority, social services, occupational therapists, GPs, housing associations, mental health teams, charities and landlords are working together to come up with a best practice approach to the issue. With funding from Wirral Clinical Commissioning Group, the aim is to develop a multi-agency approach to deal with the issues of hoarding.

Funding has also now been received from South Sefton Clinical Commissioning Group and NHS Southport and Formby Clinical Commissioning Group and a similar project has been launched in Sefton. In Sefton ten tonnes of materials have been cleared from properties in the space of two months and Fire Support Network has received 15 referrals.

West Yorkshire Fire and Rescue Service Area Manager for Fire Safety, Ian Bitcon, who is also the Chief Fire Officers Association (CFOA) national lead on hoarding, also spoke at the conference, in Merseyside.

He said: “This is an issue that we have become more and more aware of over recent years and it’s time to put it under the national spotlight.

“The conference demonstrated a practical example of partnership working with the aim of making a tangible difference in the community in relation to the lives of people who have a tendency to hoard.”

People with hoarding issues have been identified through a referral process and a bespoke service has been set up to meet the needs of each individual.

They are being helped by clearing their premises of hoarded material, providing them with information about other services, offering a befriending service by Fire Support Network (FSN) volunteers and partner agencies including Age Concern Sefton, highlighting activities in the area to help those who feel socially excluded and seeking support such as cognitive behaviour therapy.

The Fire Support Network has found materials that have been hoarded can range from hundreds of radios or electrical appliances, to clothing, food and rubbish.

Photo above shows Deputy Chief Fire Officer Phil Garrigan and Linda Mitchell, Chief Executive Officer of the charity Fire Support Network, at the national conference, holding pictures showing examples of hoarding found during the Fire Support Network project. Photo copyright of Merseyside Fire & Rescue Service (MF&RS).

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