The Minister for Finance has overall responsibility for the Government’s flood insurance policy. While the Office of Public Works (OPW) has no responsibility for oversight or regulation of the insurance industry in relation to flood risk insurance, or to insurance matters generally, the OPW has a very specific role in the exchange of information with the insurance industry in relation to completed flood defence schemes.
On 24th March 2014, the OPW agreed a Memorandum of Understanding with Insurance Ireland, the representative body of the insurance industry. This Memorandum sets out principles of how the two organisations work together to ensure that appropriate and relevant information on completed flood defence schemes is provided to insurers to facilitate, to the greatest extent possible, the availability to the public of insurance against the risk of flooding. The Memorandum does not guarantee the availability of flood risk cover in the locations concerned.
The insurance industry has its own flood modelling tools for assessing the level of risk that it is willing to underwrite in relation to individual properties. The decision on whether to offer insurance, the level of premiums charged and the policy terms applied are matters for individual insurers.
Since the establishment of the MoU, an increase in the provision of flood insurance cover has been observed in areas protected by flood relief schemes. The most recent survey carried out by Insurance Ireland highlights that 84% of policies issued for residences and small businesses include flood cover, with 95% of policies having flood cover in those areas protected by permanent flood defences.
The Department of Finance has advised the OPW that it is continuing to examine how the level of cover in areas with demountable defences in particular, can be increased. As part of the Climate Action Plan, it is reviewing the general challenges of property insurance and flooding, and has conducted a public consultation and met with key stakeholders to try and determine the nature and extent of the problem and also to see what solutions can be developed.
Consumers can make a complaint to the Financial Services and Pensions Ombudsman in relation to any dealings with a Financial Services or Insurance provider during which they feel they have been unfairly treated. In addition, individuals who are experiencing difficulty in obtaining flood insurance or believe that they are being treated unfairly may contact Insurance Ireland which operates a free Insurance Information Service for those who have queries, complaints or difficulties in relation to insurance ((01 676 1914 or email@example.com).
The Department of Employment Affairs and Social Protection operates a Humanitarian Assistance Scheme which provides financial assistance to households who are not able to meet costs for essential needs immediately following flooding or severe weather events. The scheme is designed to alleviate hardship and is administered by the Community Welfare Service. Further information on the scheme is available at www.gov.ie.
In relation to flood risk areas still awaiting flood prevention measures, on 3rd May, 2018, I was delighted to launch 29 Flood Risk Management Plans and €1bn investment in flood risk over the coming decade. These Plans are the output from the Catchment Flood Risk Assessment and Management (CFRAM) Programme - the largest ever flood risk study carried out in the State. The Plans set out the measures proposed to address the flood risk nationally, and include 118 new schemes to protect towns, villages and cities nationally. To achieve this, the Government has provided €1 billion for investment in flood risk management measures over the coming decade, and work is now underway in progressing the first 60 of these as a priority.
This commitment is in addition to the significant investment and work on flood defence schemes, since 1995, which has delivered flood protection for over forty communities today by Flood Relief Schemes. Construction of a further 11 flood relief schemes is currently underway across the country, and planning, design and development of a further 23 flood relief schemes nationally is already well advanced.
Furthermore, the Minor Works Scheme was introduced by my Office on an administrative, non-statutory basis in 2009. The purpose of the scheme is to provide funding to Local Authorities to undertake minor flood mitigation works or studies to address localised fluvial flooding and coastal protection problems within their administrative areas. The scheme generally applies where a solution can be readily identified and achieved in a short time frame. The works to be funded are carried out under Local Authority powers and ongoing maintenance of the completed works is the responsibility of the Council.
Under the scheme, applications are considered for projects that are estimated to cost not more than €750,000 in each instance. Funding of up to 90% of the cost is available for approved projects. Applications are assessed by the OPW having regard to the specific economic, social and environmental criteria of the scheme, including a cost benefit ratio and having regard to the availability of funding for flood risk management.
Under this Scheme, over 530 Minor Works projects have been completed to the end of 2018, providing local flooding solutions to almost 6,800 properties with expenditure amounting to €34.7m over the same period. This year to date, 32 projects amounting to €3.1m have been approved and notified to local authorities. Full details of this scheme are available on www.opw.ie.