How Social Prescribing Can Help Tackle The UK’s Hoarding Epidemic
Hoarding is thought to affect an estimated 3.4 million people in the UK.
As more guidance becomes available on how to tackle the issue, it is vital that any organisation that comes into contact with hoarding understands the role that social prescribing can play in supporting those affected.
Understanding and Identifying Hoarding
Misconceptions about hoarding can sometimes come from the media, including TV shows – which often fail to show how varied people’s experiences of hoarding can be or where the disorder originated from.
This story, from Care and Repair North Wales, a charity that supports the elderly, highlights some of the challenges in understanding and identifying how best to support someone with hoarding tendencies, particularly for housing professionals, who are often the first to be made aware of instances of hoarding.
An elderly lady, living in Rhyll in North Wales was reported to her landlord for hoarding newspapers.
The landlord visited the lady and instructed that she must remove the newspapers, but she refused, which resulted in tenancy action to have the paper removed.
Six months later, the same lady began hoarding hats, which wasn’t as dangerous, but was identified by her neighbours as they could see them from the outside.
Again, the landlord got involved and took tenancy action, but afterwards, she began hoarding animals. It was only at this point that the landlord thought that perhaps there was something deeper at the heart of the issue, something that needed addressed – however he wasn’t entirely sure what the next steps were or who to refer the lady to.
Rural Loneliness a ticking time bomb
Right now in the UK, there is an epidemic of loneliness and isolation. Loneliness in the over 50s age group is set to reach two million by 2025 and has been identified as a major public health crisis.
At a 2025 conference in North Wales in 2016, the Chief Medical Officer for Wales told the gathering that loneliness and isolation is more damaging to your health than smoking 19 cigarettes a day.
As social prescribing becomes increasingly recognised as a way to tackle the effects of loneliness and enable people to lead healthier, more connected lives, our mission at Elemental is to create a future where everyone is able to prescribe social activity and engagement to anyone that needs it.
We’re on a mission
To us, the story of the lady in Rhyll is not a story about hoarding or a landlord that doesn’t take action, it’s an example of social isolation in the form of an elderly lady with no family or friends. Social isolation is recognised by the NHS as one of the triggers that can lead to hoarding – people affected are more likely to live alone.
After recognising certain signs, symptoms or triggers, Elemental’s social prescribing platform makes it easier for anyone, from private and social landlords, neighborhood coaches, emergency services, GP surgeries and voluntary organisations, to recognise signs, symptoms and triggers and to refer people to activities in their local areas that can improve their physical and in this case, mental wellbeing.
Working together and with a shared vision, we can tackle issues like loneliness and isolation and enable everyone to lead healthier and happier lives.