We need a flood resilience strategy that is about more than sandbags

Original article published in Local Government Chronicle 22.02.16

On the face of it, Carlisle is getting back to some sense of normality after the devastation caused by December’s floods.

A huge effort by communities and various agencies has got the city moving again, even if there’s still much to do to repair vital infrastructure across the county.

But dig a little deeper and it soon becomes obvious who the worst affected victims of the flooding are – and the time it will take them to get back on track. I’m talking particularly about vulnerable people on low incomes, sometimes dealing with multiple health issues.

There are many people in Carlisle whose already difficult situation prior to the floods has become an awful lot worse. Without the necessary support, vulnerable people like these will undoubtedly put greater demands on our health and social care system.

A fresh approach is needed to both protect communities from future flooding and deal with the aftermath. This has been made possible via an emergency  appeal for Flood victims  set up by Foundations Independent Living Trust (FILT), which is helping HIAs across the North West and other flood-affected areas provide vital support right now.

At the time of the floods Carlisle City Council staff went door to door identifying those most in need of support and beginning the process of ensuring their homes are dry, warm and safe. But it’s also about identifying their wider support needs – from debt advice to mental health issues which may not surface until three months or more after the flooding. So investing in individuals and communities, to promote networks, relationships and friendships, to improve self- esteem and  coping strategies and personal resources will continue to be an important ingredient going forward.

As an accredited Home Improvement Agency,  we work with vulnerable people with complex needs every day and are well versed in helping them resolve what can seem overwhelming situations affecting their home and health. And in our own small way we hope this practical help can make individuals and communities  more resilient for the next  big storm to hit us.

 Robert has been successfully leading Homelife Carlisle for more than 5 years helping to make it one of the country’s most effective HIAs and helping local householders in greatest need to access the financial help FILT is able to provide.

FILT receives funding from npower for caseworker in flood hit areas

In the aftermath of December’s floods, FILT and Homelife Carlisle will be ensuring help is available for vulnerable households.

Thanks to funding from npower, a worker will be on hand to help people find their way through the difficulties to returning home. They will help with things like assessing damage to heating and appliances, sorting out temporary cooking/heating, getting practical work done in the home and signposting to other energy related services.

Homelife manager Robert Cornwall said: “This a really well timed initiative from FILT. It will  help us get boots on the ground to quickly start the process of repairs and restoration work for householders who qualify alongside the other offers of help being received.”

Stephen Burke, Chair of FILT said: ““By supporting local Home Improvement Agencies in the heart of affected communities, we can respond quickly and with minimal bureaucracy to support those in greatest need. We will work with the HIAs to reach those vulnerable householders speedily. We are very grateful to npower who already generously support our work. We are confident others will want to join them to help vulnerable householders make their homes warm and safe through the FILT Floods Fund.”

 To find out more about FILT and to support its vital work, go to: http://filt.org.uk/how-we-help-people/filt-floods-fund/