The Department of the Environment, Community and Local Government is the lead Department for severe weather emergencies and the Office of Public Works has responsibility for capital flood relief activities. However, the Department of Social Protection (DSP) has an important role to play in assisting households in the immediate aftermath of emergency events such as the recent severe weather conditions under the supplementary welfare allowance scheme (SWA).
A humanitarian assistance scheme was approved by Government in November 2009. The scheme, which is means tested, is available to assist people whose homes are damaged by flooding and who are not in a position to meet costs for essential needs, household items and in some instances structural repair. Levels of payment under the scheme depend on the relative severity of damage experienced and the household’s ability to meet these costs ensuring that the funding is appropriately targeted. Humanitarian assistance does not cover risks that are covered by insurance policies or cover business or commercial losses.
In dealing with events of this nature the DSP generally adopts a three stage approach as follows:
- Stage 1 is to provide emergency income support payments for food, clothing, personal items and temporary accommodation in the immediate aftermath of the event. A relatively small amount of financial assistance is generally provided initially but this will increase as the extent of the problems become clearer. Payments are made immediately following the impacts of severe weather mainly in respect of food, clothing, toiletries and accommodation.
- Stage 2 generally involves the replacement of white goods, basic furniture items and other essential household items. It is not until the flood water abates and houses dry out that the full extent of the damage to homes will become known. Payments are being issued under this stage to customers affected by the recent severe weather with payments ranging between €2,000 and €4,000.
- Stage 3 is to identify what longer term financial support or works are required. It could take several months before this stage of response commences and this involves a cross Departmental/Agency response. The type of work carried out can include plastering, dry-lining, relaying of floors, electrical re-wiring, painting etc. Payments under this phase will generally take longer to process as homeowners establish the cost of repair by securing builders’ estimates and the extent of the loss is verified, usually by a loss assessor, in cases where significant amounts are claimed.
Department officials are liaising with local authorities and other agencies to ensure supports are provided to those affected by the recent flooding as swiftly as possible. Any person who is experiencing hardship as a result of the recent weather events should contact the Department’s local representative administering SWA who may be able to offer assistance.