Spotlight on Self-Neglect

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April 2022: Spotlight on Self-Neglect

This newsletter is for everyone working with children and adults in Waltham Forest.

Please share with your colleagues and encourage them to sign up to get it regularly

What is Self-Neglect?

Self-neglect is extreme lack of self-care, which threatens personal health and safety.

It is sometimes associated with hoarding and may be a result of other issues such as addiction and mental health illness. Practitioners in the community, from housing officers to social workers, police and health professionals can find working with people who self-neglect extremely challenging.

It is important to try to and engage with the person, to offer all the support we are able to without causing further distress, and to understand the limitations to our interventions if the person does not wish to engage

Read more about Diogenes Syndrome

How does Self-Neglect manifest itself?

Social and community factors may include:

  • Declining family or community support
  • Unwilling to attend appointments including medical or housing appointments
  • Refusing to allow services to access the property, for example staff working for utility companies
  • Declining support from health and social care
  • Isolating themselves from friends and family

Neglect of the self may include:

  • Very poor personal hygiene 
  • Malnutrition or dehydration including
  • Medical / health needs unmet 
  • Alcohol / substance misuse – which does not always mean addiction
  • Poor financial management
  • Inability to avoid self-harm
  • Lack of interest or concern about life

Neglect of the environment may include:

  • Unsanitary, dirty conditions that create a hazardous situation that could cause serious
    physical harm to the individual or others
  • Hoarding, unable to part with things that no longer have a need or a use such as
    magazines, broken items, letters, cans, clothing etc. The amount of clutter interferes
    with everyday living, for example if the person is unable to use their kitchen or bathroom and cannot access room
  • Major repairs are needed and not addressed
  • Human or animal faeces not disposed of
  • Fire risks for example a smoker who has blocked escape routes with hoarding
  • Collecting many animals in inappropriate conditions
  • Presence of vermin
  • No running water, sanitation, plumbing or working toilet
  • No heating
  • Hazardous wiring or electronic items
  • Fire risks linked to unsafe smoking habits

Why might a person neglect themselves?

There are a number of contributing factors which may lead to or escalate self-neglect. Recent research and a look into local cases highlight that a lot of individuals have suffered trauma or a traumatic event in the past.

self neglect

Self-Neglect Guidance: resource to improve practice

The Waltham Forest Safeguarding Adults Board has worked closely with practitioners to create workable and usable self-neglect guidance.

This guidance is for anyone who supports an individual who self-neglects or is at risk of self-neglect. See the document for information on various aspects of self-neglect including, indicators, advice on how to start a difficult conversation and fluctuating capacity:

Self-Neglect Guidance

Professionals can also direct residents towards this self-assessment tool to identify any additional care needs:

Self-Assessment Tool

This short bitesize video guide on will outline how to recognise self-neglect and how best to support vulnerable residents experiencing this:

Self-Neglect bitesize video

Waltham Forest's Mental Capacity Sub-group has worked closely with practitioners to create usable guidance for professionals working with vulnerable adults. The document contains flow charts on best interests decisions, advice on fluctuating versus temporary capacity, and more:

Mental Capacity Guidance

Professionals can use the Clutter Rating tool to help assess potential hoarding / self neglect:

Clutter rating tool

Upcoming training

Professionals across the partnership are invited to sign up to the following FREE safeguarding training sessions:

Tuesday 24 May - 10.30am to 12.30pm: Safeguarding Adolescents Awareness Training

Thursday 26 May - 2pm to 3pm: Modern Slavery Awareness for Professionals

Tuesday 19 July - 10.30am to 12.30pm:Safeguarding Adolescents Awareness Training

In other news...


We are reviewing our key local health strategies on healthy weight and mental wellbeing to address challenges and issues affecting the wellbeing of residents, in order to ensure everyone in Waltham Forest is happy, healthy and thriving.

Please encourage residents to share views on how we can improve health and wellbeing in this survey:


A Carer's Guide to Home Fire Safety’ has been developed by the London Fire Brigade. 

The aim of this video is to reduce fire risk and improve outcomes for people in receipt of care.  The video aims to support those who provide a caring role in any capacity to identify fire risks that can be present in people’s own homes, and shows them what they can do to recognise and address them.

Watch film

This newsletter is brought to you by the Strategic Partnership Boards, which is made up of Waltham Forest Safeguarding Children’s Board, Safeguarding Adults Board, Health & Wellbeing Board and SafetyNet (our Community Safety Partnership).

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