The Community Council for Somerset (CCS)'s Village Agent Programme carried out fantastic work throughout the flooding crisis made possible by incredible generosity from the Freemasons. Their donations have meant that the village agents have been able to provide detailed and ongoing support in the flood affected areas, funded by Somerset Community Foundation.
The scale and duration of the flooding during the winter of 2013/14 was unprecedented and communities needed urgent support. CCS was able to give some of this much-needed support through their Somerset Village Agent project. During the flooding the village agents knew where vulnerable people were living and were therefore able to help get people to places of safety. They were also able to help those who wanted to stay in their homes do so, as safely as possible – ensuring they had sources of heat, food and the ability to cook safely in their homes. The village agents also made sure that people were still seen by their carers, and electricity was not cut off where people desperately needed it.
After the waters eventually subsided, and the clean up started, the work of the village agents continued, processing grant forms & getting money quickly to those who needed it most. They also supported a Community Hub and Coffee Mornings, where people could come for tea, coffee, advice, warmth and to meet their neighbours who had all been spread far and wide. This gave them some respite from the world of loss adjusters, insurers and building contractors. Between 150-200 households were directly flooded, with many more being affected by the floods. During the flooding and its aftermath, the village agents worked with 384 households, and dealt with over 557 issues.
The CCS village agents have dealt with an enormous range of issues, from reasonably straight forward requests, like signposting people to help with animal welfare or helping families with young children replace mouldy mattresses, to more complex and ongoing help; such as co-ordinating numerous funders to enable properties to be rebuilt and making sure people are getting the emotional support to deal with the huge impact of being flooded.
It is now the media have turned off their cameras and the communities are no longer in the public eye that this ongoing emotional support becomes so important. The impact of being flooded goes on long after the waters have subsided. Some people are still not back in their homes, others are struggling in homes that don’t feel like theirs anymore, having lost so many of their personal belongings. The infrastructure of communities has been pulled apart and this will take time to replace and rebuild. The money generously donated by the Freemasons is still being used today to fund a Health and Wellbeing worker, able to work 1:1 with clients and also with groups to provide support needed now, as well as to try to move towards resilience in the future.