A MAN who helps people deal with their hoarding problems says he was "completely surprised" to receive an award.

Don Trower won the volunteer of the year prize at the Essex NHS Awards for his efforts to help people overcome their issues.

Mr Trower has been working with a decluttering service called Your Living Room CIC for around 18 months and believes he has volunteered for around 300 hours over the past year.

The Braintree man, who has battled hoarding himself, said: "I was completely surprised, I had no idea until they began reading out the description of the winner.

"Relatives of sufferers tend to approach the issue by turning up with a black bag and putting stuff in it but that's bad help.

"You need to understand the reason behind the hoarding because it usual stems from a life experience."

Earlier this year, the World Health Organisation classified hoarding as a medical disorder.

Mr Trower said it affects around five percent of the population in some way - from having a few boxes around the house to having no room to move.

And he said the way some television programmes portray the disorder is unfair of the sufferers.

Mr Trower explained: "There's a shock element in hoarding, people see the sites and the smells and the stickiness on TV and that approach can isolate people.

"Often hoarders are extremely intelligent people, it's much better to say "Hello, how are you?" rather than to turn away. The healthcare budget for this is not there - if people can volunteer then they should."

Many of the referrals Don and CIC have come from the fire service or ambulance trust.

Harry Beer, director at CIC, said Don had been invaluable in the help he has been able to provide.

Mr Beer said: "He's been vital because having that unique insight into the problems of clients means they feel they can open up to him.

"I know a lot about the subject and my mother suffered with hoarding but I haven't had that problem myself which is why Don is so invaluable."

Meanwhile, Miffy Duffy from Silver End Primary School picked up the Start Well award and the Connect Well Award went to Braintree's First Stop Centre.