Sheffield hoarding support cutting fire risk thanks to service funding

People who hoard are being helped to change their habits, thanks to the fire service funded work of a Sheffield mental health charity.

Sheffield Mind’s ‘Magpies’ project is part way through a two year mission to support people who hoard under a scheme paid for under money set aside from South Yorkshire Fire & Rescue Authority’s reserves.

Specially trained support workers meet with people for weekly one-to-one sessions where they discuss their lifestyles, the possible reasons behind their hoarding histories and ways they could change their behaviour.

A training exchange sees the charity offer mental health awareness training to fire service staff how to spot the signs of hoarding, whilst the fire service have trained Sheffield mind staff in basic fire prevention advice. A self-help support group is also attended by more than a dozen people with hoarding issues each month.

The project only has capacity to work with up to 10 people one-to-one at any given time, but is starting to have a big impact on those it is designed to help.

Its clients include ‘Mandy’ who has limited mobility and has hoarded items for several years after leaving an abusive relationship. Mandy’s home was severely cluttered, with whole rooms inaccessible and escape routes and corridors blocked- putting her at greater risk in the event that a fire did start in her home. But by working with Mandy over a period of several months, support workers have helped her to sort through her belongings and to make decisions to let them go, significantly reducing the fire risk hazard and making more space in her home.

Sheffield Mind Head of Operations, Rob Horsley, said: “Hoarding behaviours are a very complex issue which are about far more than someone simply collecting large quantities of things over a long period of time- often it is linked to other, significant life events or mental health difficulties and requires a considered, thoughtful approach to address. We’re pleased that the work we are doing is starting to have a tangible impact on people’s safety from fire.”

South Yorkshire Fire & Rescue Area Manager Steve Helps said: “We know there are some common factors involved in nearly all of our most serious fires, which is why our focus in recent years has been on targeting our prevention work at those who are at greatest risk. Our work with Sheffield Mind is a really good example of this as, although the number of people the project supports is quite small, the impact on their safety is huge.”

The project was awarded £88,000 under the Stronger Safer Communities Reserve. The fund is a Fire Authority scheme which reinvests money into local communities to support our work to prevent emergencies. The money has been set aside from the Authority’s reserves.

This content was last updated on April 25th, 2019