What can be done for those who fail to look after their basic needs?

The kind of scene with which agencies are sometimes confronted
The kind of scene with which agencies are sometimes confronted

People at risk of serious harm or even death as a result of their own self-neglect are the focus of a new plan designed to help them.

The guidance, issued by the Lancashire Safeguarding Adults Board, advises agencies which may come into contact with people facing difficulties as a result of hoarding, poor nutrition or personal hygiene issues.

It follows reviews of cases across the country where individuals have died as a result of their own neglectful behaviour.

The document, which is set to be approved by Lancashire County Council’s cabinet next week, lays out the challenges faced by organisations dealing with cases of self-neglect.

When a person deemed to have mental capacity makes what is described as “an unwise decision”, authorities run the risk of breaching the individual’s human rights if they fail to respect it - specifically, the right to a private life.

Under the new policy, all agencies coming into contact with somebody suffering from the effects of self-neglect will be required to work together and, ultimately, form an action plan to try to reduce the risk faced by the person. They should seek to gain consent for any intervention, but it might be considered appropriate to proceed without it.

The framework outlines how repeated and inappropriate contact with the emergency services could be an “indicator of vulnerability”, behind which could lie self-neglect.

A separate policy specifically to deal with hoarding will also be put before councillors. It includes an assessment tool to enable agencies to compare an individual’s real-world living conditions which a series of mocked-up pictures representing different levels of hoarding.

People subject to an action plan should only be taken off it once risks to their safety have been reduced “as far as possible” or when there are no further interventions open to the authorities.

Anybody not deemed to have mental capacity or where the self-neglect is deemed to be as a result of a third party will be dealt with by separate policies.