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A national conference on hoarding and the fire and health risks it can pose to people has been staged at our Service’s Training and Development Academy.
It is the first time the national conference on hoarding has been held in Merseyside.
The conference, which was staged by the Fire Support Network, a charity who work in partnership with our 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 event also followed the first Chief Fire Officers Association (CFOA) UK Hoarding Awareness Week in May 2014. The week aimed to raise awareness about the dangers of extensive clutter in the home, as well as encouraging partners to work together to help compulsive hoarders.
Deputy Chief Fire Officer Phil Garrigan who opened the conference on hoarding, 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 was set up after a 12-month project was launched earlier in 2014 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 2014. By December 2014, 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 in 2014 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 email us at 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.
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.
The “Remove To Improve” project, which includes the project to tackle hoarding and a de-cluttering service,
has recently received national acclaim winning the IFSEC – Security and Fire Excellence Awards 2014 for the
category of “Community Fire Safety Project of the Year”. Fire Support Network was shortlisted for the
award against projects from eight fire and rescue services and a private company in the category.
For more information on the charity Fire Support Network go to:
Left to right is: Karen Lavery, Community Welfare Manager at Fire Support Network, Deputy Chief Fire Officer Phil Garrigan, Linda Mitchell, Chief Executive Officer of Fire Support Network, and Peter Rhodes, Chair of the Fire Support Network charity. They hold photos of some of the hoarding that the Fire Support Network project has helped to address in Merseyside.
Photos: Karl Mansfield.
Left to right is: Karen Lavery, then Linda Mitchell, both from the charity Fire Support Network, and Area Manager Ian Bitcon from West Yorkshire Fire and Rescue Service.

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