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Hoarding And Squalor A Billion Dollar Social Issue - NFP Report

18 September 2014 at 10:32 am
Lina Caneva
A Not for Profit report reveals a growing problem of hoarding and squalor that could cost Australia $1.8 billion for just minimal intervention and up to 20 times that without early intervention.

Lina Caneva | 18 September 2014 at 10:32 am


Hoarding And Squalor A Billion Dollar Social Issue - NFP Report
18 September 2014 at 10:32 am

A Not for Profit report reveals a growing problem of hoarding and squalor that could cost Australia $1.8 billion for just minimal intervention and up to 20 times that without early intervention.

The report to be released today at the national Hoarding and Squalor Conference in Sydney by Catholic Community Service (CCS) calls for a multi-agency response under a single Government department.

The Pathways through the Maze Report also reveals that people of any age can be affected by hoarding disorder.

“In Australia, hoarding can occur at any age across a wide range of socio-economic backgrounds, causing physical health and safety risks and putting people at risk of eviction, isolation and homelessness,” the report said.

The report says new population research estimates more than 600,000 people (2.6 per cent) may suffer from hoarding disorder.

Catholic Community Services NSW/ACT (CCS) Hoarding and Squalor Manager, Mercy Splitt said that hoarding disorder is one of the most complex social issues that Australia faces and in spite of it being recognised as a distinct psychiatric condition since May 2013, Australia still does has not cohesive approach.

“Australia is facing a deficit of early intervention and coordination strategies to respond effectively to hoarding and squalor.

“Hoarding and squalor is an estimated $1.8 billion issue with minimal intervention. Without an effective solution costs could spiral to 20 times that if we don’t intervene early and coordinate funding and services.”  

Splitt said CCS has offered one of the few specialist hoarding and squalor services in NSW since 2008.

She said that with a typical minimal intervention (of case worker visits for three months and help with repairs and cleaning) costing about $3000 per case, current funding only allows for a small percentage of clients across NSW to receive specialist hoarding and squalor services.

Fire and Rescue New South Wales (FRNSW) will also tell the conference that 30 per cent of fire fatalities to date this year were linked to hoarding conditions.

“To be effective, services need to be collaborative with a coordinated approach,” Splitt said.

“When collaboration does not occur, blockages arise, people don’t receive the help they need, their problems escalate, and the burden on our health and human services rises.”

“We need to intervene much earlier, well before people are at risk of fire, eviction or homelessness; this requires better mechanisms for continually coordinating available services as well as identifying better ways to use existing resources,” she said. 

“Too often we see clients who have gone for years without help, where their homes may have filled with accumulated material to the extent where it is difficult to move through the house, or stoves, fridges, sinks and bathrooms have become inaccessible.

“Coordination will help us detect problems much earlier and help get treatment and services to people before things get out of hand.

“Without coordination, people fall through service gaps, often because non-specialist agencies need additional knowledge and expertise to respond effectively.

“Our clients face shame, social isolation, depression, and an inability to change their behaviour without support and intervention,” Splitt said.

The report says a sample of CCS clients reveals that in 5 per cent of cases clients were aged under 29, in 35 percent of cases clients were aged 30-49 on program entry, in 45 per cent of cases they were aged between 50 and 69. In 15 per cent of cases clients were aged 70 or older.

Of the CCS client group 59 per cent lived in public housing, 29 per cent owned their own home and 12 per cent lived in private rental accommodation.

“Although a high number of people lived in public or rented housing, only 7 per cent had been ordered to act by councils, with 11 per cent subject to a CTTT hearing," Splitt said. 

“This indicates that hoarding remains largely a hidden issue, and that the occasional sensational case of a household that has come to the attention of, and created a problem for a neighbourhood, are not where services are most needed to get help to those affected."

Almost half of clients (46 per cent) were living with other people, thus exposing children and relatives to health and safety risks, which impacted on their wellbeing.

“As hoarding and squalor is a multi-agency issue, CCS believes that a single government department should be assigned responsibility for the overarching framework of developing effective system responses.

“This Government department would work collaboratively with other government departments to ensure a consistent and coordinated approach.

“It's also important to develop national guidelines for providing clear and effective pathways for those in need.

“Research is also required to inform best practice, and legislative change may be effective in bringing about increased access to service providers, as neither hoarding nor squalor is clearly defined under legislation designed to protect public health,” Splitt said.

See the full report below. 

Lina Caneva  |  Editor  |  @ProBonoNews

Lina Caneva has been a journalist for more than 35 years. She was the editor of Pro Bono Australia News from when it was founded in 2000 until 2018.

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