[C]ommunities across Cumbria have had a helping hand to adapt and prepare for extreme weather and other emergencies during the past year, thanks to a programme of support led by three community organisations.
The Rebuilding Together programme, made possible thanks to a £500,000 National Lottery grant from the Big Lottery Fund, is starting its second year of helping households, community groups and third-sector organisations to become more resilient and ready to respond to situations like flooding.
The programme is run by Cumbria CVS in partnership with ACTion with Communities in Cumbria (ACT) and Cumbria Action for Sustainability, all of which have a long history of working with communities in the county.
“Rebuilding Together is a bit different to some of the other support that Cumbria has had since the flooding in 2015 in particular, in the sense that it’s by community organisations, for the community,” said Laura Cadman, chief executive officer at Cumbria CVS. “Thanks to this funding, we’re able to offer a range of services and support for three years. It’s been a busy first 12 months of helping communities and local organisations to help themselves, driven by what people need so that they can be better prepared.”
James Harcourt, England Grant Making Director at the Big Lottery Fund, said: “The Rebuilding Together programme is all about bringing community organisations and local people together to tackle an issue that is of great importance to communities in Cumbria. We’re proud to see the difference the programme has made over the past year to local people thanks to National Lottery funding.”
Cumbria CVS has been helping organisations to create their own resilience and continuity plans.
“With these plans in place, if there is an emergency or another kind of disruption, they’ll be able to minimise the impact on their services,” Laura said. “Our support means there are now also more people trained to respond to emergencies as volunteers.”
Cumbria CVS has worked with Emergency Response Groups in many of Cumbria’s larger communities, including Appleby, Kendal, Keswick and Cockermouth, helping them to access training for their volunteers, and linking them with organisations such as their local mountain rescue teams and the police.
“We have also supported the British Red Cross to promote their emergency response volunteering opportunities and recruit new volunteers,” Laura said. “We worked closely with Cumbria County Council’s Resilience Unit and staff from Carlisle City Council to deliver a training session for volunteers interested in helping at reception centres during an emergency.”
When Millom flooded on 30 September 2017, Cumbria CVS staff were able to support the strong response from the community, using experience and materials developed following the 2015 floods. They also produced short videos to help community organisations think about developing a plan for how they’d cope during an emergency, and one to help people with a learning disability think through what they’d do in emergency situations.
For its part, ACT has been supporting community resilience and emergency planning activities across the county. There are now 35 flood action groups across the county, which ACT has been helping to create emergency plans.
With the help of parish councils, ACT has sent out almost 38,000 free Household Emergency Plan leaflets with practical suggestions for having a plan and discussing it with others in the home, what to put in an emergency ‘grab bag’, how to stay informed and respond to an incident.
“We’ve also brought people together to share their experiences, think about future risks and work out who in the community might need additional help,” said Lorraine Smyth, chief executive of ACT.
The relationship between the community and ‘blue light’ responders has been strengthened, too. Around 85 people attended ACT’s Community to COBR Conference in November, where the responders that are part of the Local Resilience Forum explained how they function in an emergency. By coming together with members of the public and other agencies, they were able to explore where community responses can add value.
People wanting to adapt their homes to cope better with flooding have tapped into a range of services offered by CAfS.
“More than 500 people have taken part in 15 events during the year,” said Emma Greenshaw, who manages CAfS’ Rebuilding Together services.
“About 400 residents came to drop-ins, stalls and other events for advice on refitting their homes in a way that makes it quicker, cheaper and less stressful to get things back to normal if they’re flooded again.”
Last summer, the CAfS team began offering advice visits at homes where flooding is a risk, carrying out one every week on average. Some of the households received a more comprehensive audit to identify changes they could make for flood resilience and energy efficiency. Many more residents got information on retrofitting through a new guide on flood retrofitting that CAfS produced using the most up-to-date advice from a panel of experts.
Seventy building professionals and experienced householders gained in-depth knowledge through CPD-accredited courses on flood retrofitting and a lime workshop run by CAfS. The charity also commissioned new research to understand why there’s so much waste generated during flooding and what can be done about it, with the findings published in September last year.
CAfS has been supporting communities that are running projects that help prevent climate change, one of the root causes of increased extreme weather. One example was the Melbreak area, where volunteers ran an open day giving information on community hydro schemes, using less energy at home, switching energy tariffs and electric bikes.
Summing up the first year of the programme, Laura said: “Rebuilding Together has already made Cumbria better able to cope with future flooding and other emergencies. As we head into 2018, we’re looking forward to building on the foundation we’ve laid in the first year.”
Anyone who’d like to know more about Rebuilding Together can reach Laura on 01768 800350 or visit cumbriacvs.org.uk.