Search This Blog

Sunday 1 December 2019

Dear Santa - please can we have a better benefits system? #growinguppoor

Dear Santa

For Christmas please can we have a better alternative to the UK's dysfunctional Universal Credit benefits system?  It's laughable - but sadly not in a jolly "Ho! Ho! Ho!" kind of way.

Hats off to the amazing Mum and her two gorgeous children in this Channel 4 News video, from the Channel 4 Dispatches programme "Growing up poor" which is due to be broadcast on 2nd December 2020.  

Very sadly, they are innocent victims of the Government’s black and white, uncaring, short-sighted attitude towards vulnerable people.

People who are financially challenged often struggle to cope, and become affected by stress-related physical and/or mental health issues that adversely affect their Executive Functioning (things like their ability to plan, organise, multi-task, arrive at appointments on time - if they remember them – emotions, starting/finishing projects and decision-making).

Which is why we sometimes get asked by children's social services to help clients who struggle to cope with keeping their home organised, clutter-free, functional and safe.
An empathetic and practical decluttering and organising service is cheaper and less traumatic for a family than a clearance, and can significantly reduce the risk of children being put into care or families being evicted.

Otherwise, the family can disintegrate; physical and mental health problems (including low self-esteem, lack of confidence, anxiety and depression) can dominate their lives; they may turn to drugs, alcohol or shoplifting, be unable to study or to find a job, and potentially end up in the criminal justice system.    

When the children grow up with issues related to Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACEs), they're likely to end up back in the benefits system – all because of Government bureaucracy and red-tape around a benefits system that should never have been implemented.

So, please Santa, can you give the whole of the UK the gift of a repaired and fairer Universal Credit system, so this family - and millions like them - can receive the financial and person-centred support, a happy Christmas and the positive future they truly deserve?

Thank you in advance - and keep up the great work!

Lots of love (and big hugs to the elves and your reindeer).

Thursday 31 October 2019

Continuous Professional Development (CPD)

Someone once asked me about what training I've done. So, here are some examples of the main Continuous Professional Development (CPD) training and events I've attended or delivered, books I've read or videos I've watched since 2014.

November 2022
  • Attended Shelter Homelessness & Mental Illness training (online)
October 2022
  • Podcast about the connection between ADHD and hoarding behaviours - for Clouds End CIC
September 2022
  • Represented Fastminds Adult ADHD support group at a SW London NHS/local authority Autism Strategy Workshop
December 2021
  • Commissioned to write a Court Report
November 2021
  • Attended HHSRS training: Damp, Mould and Excess Cold (CIEH)
  • Delivered hoarding awareness training to Occupational Therapists at St Peter's Hospital (Chertsey)
November 2021
  • Delivered hoarding awareness training to Surrey Fire & Rescue Service (Prevention & Fire Investigation teams)

November 2019

  • Attended Psychosocial skills and support training for Adults with ADHD (UKAAN - UK Adult ADHD Network)

October 2019
  • Attended Basic Welfare Benefits An Introduction (Central Training, London)
  • Attended Advocacy Training Level 2 (Advocacy Training)
  • Co-delivered Stage 3 Professional Hoarding Practitioner Training, London
September 2019 
  • Co-delivered Stages 1&2 Professional Hoarding Practitioner Training, Birmingham

  • June 2019

  • Co-delivered Stages 1&2 Professional Hoarding Practitioner Training, Birmingham

  • March 2019

    • Delivered Professional Hoarding Practitioner Training - Levels 1 & 2 (Birmingham)
    • Read Citation for Sheena Crankson at Royal Borough of Kingston's Mayor's Community Award - 

    December 2018

    October 2018

    September 2018

    July 2018

    • Delivered Professional Hoarding Practitioner Training - Level 1 (London)

    June 2018

    May 2018

    April 2018

    • Attended consultancy meeting with Hoarding UK (charity)
    • Attended Train the Trainer training (College of Public Speaking, London)
    • Gave a talk about hoarding and the Hoarding Ice-Breaker Form to Elmbridge Locality Team

    March 2018 

    • Attended the two day 18th Annual Conference on Hoarding & Cluttering in San Francisco, which included various talks and workshops:
      • Dr Michael Tompkins 
        • Pre-conference Workshop:  Applying CBT Techniques When Helping Clients De-clutter Their Lives
        • The Essential Coaching Skills: Sorting, Making Decisions, and Following Through
      • Dr. Monica Eckfield - Listening and Learning from Participants in the Help for Hoarding Treatment Study
      • Chia-Ying Chou - Experiencing Compassion-Focused Therapy for Hoarding
      • Donald Davidoff - Thinking Outside the Box: A Neurocognitive Approach to Hoarding Disorder
      • Hannah McCabe-Bennett - New developments in hoarding research: A novel approach using virtual reality
    October 2017 
    • Attended  NLA Landlord Foundation Course (1 day) & NLA Safer Homes Course (1 day), London
    July 2017

    June 2017
    • Attended "The Autism Show" in London
    May 2017

    April 2017
    • Started working with Surrey County Council to produce a Hoarding Protocol
    • Attended Emotional Resilience for Practitioners training (Changing Lifecourse Training & Coaching)
    February 2017
    • Attended a fascinating talk on Anxiety and ASD by Laura Kerbey of The Curly Hair Project, based on the excellent book "Asperger's Syndrome and Anxiety" by Alis Rowe

    November 2016

    April 2016
    • Ran a facilitated discussion on "How clutter affects health, and how to ask for help" at Newbury Hoarding Disorders Self-Help Support Group
    • Read "The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying: A simple, effective way to banish clutter forever" by Marie Kondo.  My verdict? Take from it what you think might work for you.  It's unlikely to make much of an immediate difference to people who exhibit hoarding behaviours or suffer with mental health problems.
    March 2016 
    • Attended Autism Spectrum Conditions training (Surrey County Council Training Team)

    • Ran a workshop on "How to ask for help if clutter or disorganisation affects your health" at the annual conference of The Association of Professional Declutterers & Organisers - APDO Conference, London

    Nov 2015
    • Attended Self-Neglect Awareness training (Surrey Safeguarding Adults Board)
    Oct 2015
    • Attended Safeguarding Awareness training (Surrey County Council Skills Academy)
    Sept 2015
    • Attended Making Safeguarding Personal - Care Act briefing training (Surrey Safeguarding Adults Board)
    June 2015
    May 2015    
    • Attended Training - Meeting the needs of Learners with High Functioning Autistic Spectrum Conditions in the Classroom - Level 3, ongoing (Positive Autism Support & Training)
    • Attended Emotion Gyms with a client (First Steps Surrey/Virgin Care/NHS)
      • Communication & Assertiveness 
      • Self Esteem
      • Anxiety
    • Co-trainer - Hoarding Behaviour Awareness Training for Surrey Family Support Services (Empathic Decluttering)
    • Attended Emotion Gyms (with clients) - (NHS Virgin Care) - Mary Frances Trust, Leatherhead
      • Communication & Assertiveness (NHS Virgin Care) - Leatherhead
      • Self-Esteem 
      • Anxiety
    Apr 2015

    Mar 2015
    • Attended Mental Capacity Act-Awareness Training (Surrey County Council)
    • Attended Hoarding, Safety & Ethics for Professional Organisers training (Yourganize)
    • Attended Dementia Friend training (Dementia Friends)
    • Presented a workshop on Hoarding and The Care Act 2014 at the Annual APDO Conference, London
    Feb 2015
    • Attended Care Act 2014 training – An Overview (Central Training)

    Jan 2015
    • Attended a CPD Event - Standardisation & CPD meeting of Prevention, Protection & Safety functions subject matter experts (Fire Service College)

    Dec 2014
    • Attended Mental Health First Aid Standard training (MHFA), Kingston

    Nov 2014
    • Co-trainer of Hoarding Awareness Training for Professional Organisers (Clouds End CIC)
    • Attended Motivational Interviewing training (Central Training, London)
    • Attended Working with Hard-to-Engage Service Users training (Central Training)

    Oct 2014

    Sep 2014

    Jun 2014

    Mar 2014
    • Attended Understanding Chronic Disorganization session at APDO conference (Yourganize)

    Memberships & Committees


    Friday 11 October 2019

    Executive Dysfunction & the mysery of having undiagnosed ADHD

    There's been a lot of media coverage recently about the BBC radio 4 programme in which comedian Shappi Khorsandi received help to bring order to her home from my APDO (Association of Professional Declutterers and Organisers) colleague Sarah Macnaught of RightSize

    Here's the link to the radio programme if you'd like to listen to it.

    What I don't remember being mentioned in the programme was that Shappi was diagnosed with Dyspraxia whilst at university, and then a few years ago she was diagnosed with Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) – another neurological condition which creates problems with Executive Functioning – which is why Shappi (and countless others like her) experience difficulties with things like planning, organising, decision-making, multi-tasking, time management, and even regulating their emotions.

    An article by the journalist Robyn Wilder in The Independent in 2018, explains her experiences of Executive Dysfunction perfectly.  She was being assessed for ADHD when she wrote the article, in which she described how she lives in constant chaos.

    I do not know where my keys are. I only pay bills once the red ones arrive, and I have zoned out 20 times while writing this. And this is me on a good day. I cope (or, rather, don’t) by mentally flagellating myself, drinking at least six cups of coffee a day to improve my focus, and using six different calendars to keep track of my life”. “Until 18 months ago I assumed that these were all personal shortcomings on my part. I’m lazy, perhaps, or just stupid. Maybe I’m just inherently slothful. Or maybe they’re symptoms of the depression and anxiety that have dogged me my whole life.  It didn’t occur to me that they might be symptoms of a medical issue until I read an article by Maria Yagoda in The Atlantic. As soon as I finished reading it, I cried for two hours straight. Then I called my GP for a referral”.

    Robyn went on to say “I do wish I had been diagnosed as a child. It might have stopped me internalising and then beating myself with my teachers’ labels. It might have provided a counterpoint to the awful, critical inner voice that told me I was ridiculous and a time-waster, because I just generally can’t cope with life the way other people seem to".

    The fact is, the issue of non-diagnosis of this potentially debilitating condition doesn’t just affect adults.  An international study published in 2018 in The Lancet warned that ADHD in children is going wildly under-diagnosed and under-treated in the UK. After reviewing data from 24,000 patients, 14,000 of whom were children, researchers found that while five per cent of children in the UK have ADHD, only one in 10 are actually treated.

    So, if that’s the case as we approach the third decade of the 21st century, it’s difficult to imagine how many adults with symptoms of ADHD are still undiagnosed – and have suffered mental anguish, bullying, abuse and frustrations with organising their lives as a result.

    As someone who works with people with issues related to Executive Dysfunction on a daily basis, and is about to become a Trustee of the Fastminds Adult ADHD SupportGroup in Kingston-upon-Thames, it seems to me that there’s not nearly enough support for individuals and families affected by ADHD and other neurological conditions.

    Many of the true stories that we hear at the support group are absolutely heart-breaking – they would barely be believed if you read about them in a book or watched the movie of their lives. 

    Some people are so desperate for help and support that they travel miles to attend our Support Group meetings - we had someone recently who drove all the way from Kent *a round trip of over 100 miles) because they said ours was their nearest adult ADHD support group!

    How different their lives might be if only:
    1. They’d been able to get an earlier diagnosis, and appropriate medication (instead of sometimes self-medicating with food, drink, drugs, stuff – resulting in hoarding behaviours, eviction and even homelessness)
    2. They didn’t have to wait months and months (sometimes years) for an assessment 
    3. They hadn't been mis-diagnosed with mental health disorders instead of neurological ones.  
      1. Presumably this is because the ADHD diagnosis section of the NHS website states "If your problems are recent and did not occur regularly in the past, you're not considered to have ADHD. This is because it's currently thought that ADHD cannot develop for the first time in adults".
    4. “The System” (healthcare and benefits) understood the extreme difficulties experienced by people with Executive Dysfunction, and stopped withdrawing benefits at the push of a button (making them jump through hoops to appeal, thereby creating more mental anguish and health problems) and making reasonable adjustments for them (which is what is required for employees in a workplace). 

    So, as it's ADHD Awareness Month, I would ask everyone who has been kind enough to read this blog to please share it with your contacts, and spread the word about the urgent need for far more training for GPs about Executive Dysfunction, ADHD and related neurological conditions - and how if misdiagnosed or undiagnosed they can lead to mental health problems.

    Fingers crossed as a result, someone from "The System" (NHS, DWP, etc) will take note, sooner rather than later - and improvements will happen. Diagnoses will be made. Medications will be prescribed. Lives will be changed.

    Thank you in advance for helping transform the lives of people who haven't chosen to be neurodiverse - they just happen to be blessed to be that way.

    #ADHDAwarenessMonth #Diagnosis #ADHD #ADD #ExecutiveDysfunction #NHS #DWP #APDO #neurodiversity

    Thursday 10 October 2019

    Mental Health Awareness Day, Adult ADHD & Executive Dysfunction - Myths and Facts

    We're proud to say that today (which happens to be #MentalHealthAwarenessDay) we not only helped someone understand a bit more about #ADHD - which is nice, as it's #ADHDAwarenessMonth - we also helped them understand about how Executive Dysfunction doesn't just affect people with mental illness.

    By the end of our conversation, they decided they will definitely ask their GP for a referral for an ADHD assessment - when previously another GP had apparently told them:
    (a) the NHS doesn't recognise this condition in adults - it most certainly does - and
    (b) they should perhaps get a referral for a mental health assessment instead.

    Today we also helped someone else write a letter to appeal against their PIP benefits being stopped. They clearly experience extreme difficulties with Executive Functioning, and will be incapable of functioning "normally" until the root cause of their extreme anxiety and ill health (probably ADHD and Autism) is diagnosed and treated.

    Is it any wonder that people end up frustrated and with mental health problems when they have to contend with a system which doesn't fully understand that there are conditions other than mental ill health that can result in Executive Dysfunction - conditions that prevent someone from being able to function "normally" and conform to social norms, like being able to hold down jobs or relationships.

    Wake up NHS England and NHS Improvement - these are not isolated cases!

    #ADHMyths #ADHDAwarenessMonth. ADHD Awareness Month #ExecutiveDysfunction #Equality #PersonCentred #HealthPolicy

    To discover myths and facts about ADHD, check out the ADHD Europe website -

    For more information about ADHD, check out the ADDIS website -

    And if Executive Dysfunction is causing you to have problems with clutter, disorganisation or hoarding which is affecting your health, then try using the Hoarding Ice-Breaker Form to start a conversation with your GP. -