By Fabian French, Chief Executive UK Community Foundation
Blow, winds and crack your cheeks! Rage! Blow!*
Recurring flooding shows that we need to have high quality plans in place to deal with natural disasters. UK Community Foundations need to take the lead in crisis planning for our communities rather than playing catch-up. Community Foundations in flood areas have demonstrated how quickly their adaptable and flexible procedures can be executed so that immediate and effective responses are made to alleviate the worst excesses of a natural disaster.
Natural disasters, previously impossible to predict in the UK, are becoming repetitiously commonplace. The floods of December 2013-2014 recurred again in December 2015 ruining many Christmas and New Year celebrations and devastating homes and businesses. At present, flood alerts are presented in three figures and flood warnings continue to rise well into double figures. The flood tides do not look like they will abate at any time soon.
In the wake of the latest round of floods the effected community foundations in Scotland, Wales, Calderdale, Lancashire, Cumbria, Greater Manchester, York and Leeds immediately started Flood Appeals. UKCF launched a nationwide Winter Floods Recovery Appeal in December and we thank Comic Relief for its generous donation of £200,000.
The success of these appeals can be demonstrated by the in excess of £5 million raised within a month by Cumbria and Lancashire working together to mitigate the destruction of Storm Desmond. York, Leeds , Wales and Scotland launched their Flood Appeal just as Storms Eva and Frank had finished washing away Christmas. In total the community foundations’ flood appeals have raised over £6.5 million. Not only are the community foundations very, very good at raising large sums of money quickly and getting Government match funding agreed, they are also very, very good at distributing it where it can best help their communities.
Without the knowledge and understanding of the community foundations and their ability to work with local groups, charities, authorities and individuals the distribution of funds would be much, much slower and much, much less effective.
The individual approach each community foundation takes to the needs of its local community is the key to their success. The role of UKCF is to provide resources that enable the community foundations to share ideas and advice in an ongoing exchange of information throughout a crisis. The rapidly implemented appeals and disaster responses were made possible by pre-existing contingency and project plans, including UKCF’s provision of adaptable plans and publicity materials for use by community foundations.
There are a huge variety of issues for the community foundations to consider when faced with a crisis of the magnitude of the recent floods. These range from the need for immediate relief grants to individuals in dire need, to help with housing, insurance issues and emergency costs, counselling and advice and specialists payment. These considerations are put into sharp relief when many community foundations gave themselves deadlines of 24-48 hours to distribute grants, forcing them to face the difficult logistics of immediate grant-making. There are always added complications, planning this year not only had to consider the need for additional administration, but also be flexible enough to cope with the long Christmas holiday period. I spoke to several of the Chief Executives during Christmas and New Year who were busy working towards resolving the most pressing issues facing their communities.
The media continues to focus on the ongoing devastation of the floods. The community foundations have demonstrated their skills and expertise to ensure the very best responses to meet local needs. However, we are not standing still, UKCF and its members are looking to the future, planning measures that will provide grants and support to local rebuilding projects. Once all of the interim work of funding clean-up operations, emergency repairs, providing clothing, food, water, heating and childcare have taken place we will continue to work together to ensure the maintenance and survival of all our local communities throughout the UK.
It is my expectation, following our crucial intervention, that our forward planning and expertise will enable those local communities affected by the floods to recover, in good health, ready to face the future.
*William Shakespeare: King Lear Act 3 scene 2.
To donate go to UK Community Foundations Winter Flood Recovery Appeal