Latest figures show that one in five households are still not home after December’s floods.
Almost a thousand families out of the original 5,264 that were made homeless are still in temporary accommodation.
As we head towards winter, Cumbria Community Foundation is relaunching its Flood Recovery Appeal, not for more donations but for people to ask for financial help.
Andy Beeforth, Chief Executive, said: “We know that there are people out there who were flooded and still haven’t come forward for help. We think this is partly because some people still think they are not eligible for a grant or that someone else is in greater need. It’s also partly because some people who had insurance are still waiting to see what they are not covered for.”
One family didn’t apply for help until this month because they didn’t realise that they hadn’t submitted their application form.
The family who don’t want to be identified, from Carlisle, filled in the grant application after they lost everything in their rented property in the Warwick Road area of the city. But it was only three weeks ago when they went through old emails that they realised they hadn’t pressed send.
“We thought that we didn’t qualify for a grant and that’s why we hadn’t heard anything. I sent it in when I realised we hadn’t sent in the application and I got a phone call the next morning offering a grant.
“On that Saturday back in December, I kept going out every half an hour to see how high the water was against the flood defences and it didn’t look like it was going to breach, so my wife and my children and I all went to bed. Then at half past midnight a policeman knocked on the door and said we had to evacuate immediately. My older daughters were staying with us that night too, it was terrifying.
“We lost everything, the water was five feet deep. All our white goods and furniture – including a brand new sofa which we are still paying for now.”
The family and their four year old daughter moved to temporary accommodation in Wigton which made getting to work in Penrith as a postman and getting to Longtown to work as a teacher difficult for the family.
Luckily, their family and friends rallied round and helped get them back on their feet – donating furniture and helping them when they finally found another property to rent in Newtown Road.
“Getting that phone call from Cumbria Community Foundation was lovely. We had maxed out on our credit cards. We were living in a shell. We had the basics – a sofa and a television, but we have been able to pay off some of our debt and buy wardrobes and make the house feel like a home again.”
The family have had another reason to be happy, a new baby arrived just three weeks ago. The father continued: “There were so many times we were in tears and we wondered how we were going to get through. The pressure that we have been under, it released the pressure. For so long it was so bleak. I couldn’t see a way out. I know there are people worse off than us. Some don’t have the support from family, friends or any insurance. It’s enough to send someone into a deep depression. You can’t believe the happiness we feel now. When we were told we could get the money. I can’t tell you. I’d say to anyone who hasn’t applied yet, do it, getting this grant can make all the difference.”
While this family have been buoyed by the strength of support from their friends and family. Others have been less fortunate and are struggling.
Cumbria Community Foundation is helping other families who are buckling under the pressure by funding support groups and one to one therapy sessions across the county.
CADAS (Cumbria Alcohol and Drug Advisory Service) has seen an increase in the number of people who have turned to alcohol or prescription drugs as a way of coping with life after the floods.
North Services Manager Helen Lawrie, said: “We have seen an increasing number of people accessing our service on a one-to-one basis who maybe had issues before the floods and have now become more vulnerable. People may have gone from having the occasional glass of wine to half a bottle a night. We find that some people are also addicted to prescription drugs, those who normally wouldn’t are going to their GP for an antidepressant and six months or a year on are still using it to cope.
Some people feel that nothing has changed in terms of extra flood defences or infrastructure and they have an ongoing anxiety that it is going to happen again this winter.
“Thanks to support from Cumbria Community Foundation, we are launching courses around the county to help those who need it to develop their resilience. There’ll be one in Carlisle, one in Kendal and one out west. It’s called Mindfulness and it helps people to stop feeling anxious, to think more clearly, to cope better and to have clear plans and strategies for when they have an anxious thought and then think what if, what if, what if.
“We can’t change their circumstances, we can’t help get them back home any quicker or prevent another flood, but we can give people tactics to help them cope better.”
Cumbria Community Foundation raised more than £10 million pounds to help anyone financially affected by last December’s floods. Anyone who is suffering hardship can apply, even if they had house and contents insurance. There are also grants of up to £2,000 to help households protect their properties from a future flood.
So far £5.7 million pounds has been distributed. Everything you need to know about how to apply for a grant is available here.