Understanding self-neglect

What is self-neglect? 

Self-neglect is the term used to describe when someone cannot care for themselves to the extent that it is a risk to their personal health and safety.

It can involve not caring for your hygiene, health or where you live or sometimes refusing to take help from services that are trying to help.

Not everyone that is neglecting themselves may need to be safeguarded and need the help of a social worker. It is only when self-neglect means that it is causing harm that this becomes a safeguarding issue.

For example, Mr T (not his real name) is showing signs of not being able to care for himself. Here is some more information about him:

Mr T lived alone with his dog, in a Council owned property for over 40 years. He had serious long-term health problems which was getting worse and worse and making his health bad and meant he couldn’t move around his house as well as he did before.  

Mr T did take good care of his house but where he was getting ill his house got more and more neglected. The council visited and described it as unfit for human habitation.

Mr T did have close family but they didn’t live on the Island. A neighbour helped as much as she could. Mr T loved his dog very much but his dog caused issues because he fouled inside the property. Social Workers felt that the environment was beyond cleaning, so they tried hard to get Mr T a new home. However, this was taking time, as no suitable properties accepting Mr T and his dog could be found. Other options were being explored to rehome the dog but Mr T loved his dog and didn’t want to be parted from him.

Mr T did have ‘mental capacity’ and could make decisions for himself. Housing officers worked closely with Mr T over a lengthy period and often felt frustrated about not being able to make things any better.

When it was getting close to the winter the housing staff were worried as Mr T had no heating or hot water. Mr T was a proud independent man, he didn’t like to accept help.

Life got even harder to Mr T when he was banned from many shops in the local town due to looking untidy and smelling badly.

In the end, the professionals working with Mr T were so worried that they contacted Adult Services and they started a safeguarding enquiry.

Where to get help for self-neglect?

Its important to know that support is out there for anyone who is self-neglecting and support is also available for that person’s friends and family.

The best place to ask for help or support is to speak to Adult Social Care by contacting 01624 685969 during office hours or 01624 650000 out of office hours by asking to speak to the on-call social worker.