Barry Keane, a residents spokesman who helped flood-ravaged residents of the city’s Mardyke area in the wake of the 2009 disaster, said red-tape must be eliminated to ensure financial aid gets quickly to those most in need.
He said the emergency funding system introduced in Cork at the time, where a special Lord Mayor’s fund was established involving the Red Cross and the St Vincent de Paul, should be replicated at national level.
He said the system which had involved people knocking on doors, identifying those most in need and getting money to them almost immediately, worked well.
“By its failure to deliver flood defences in places like Bandon, the State has failed the people. It now has a moral obligation to help them,” he said.
He said Department of Social Protection requests for a raft of documentation from flood victims dealing with destroyed homes, and who are, in many cases, just not able to find this documentation amid their ruined homes, should be eliminated.
He called for the means testing to be scrapped, for the establishment of a helpline to talk people through the complex process, and said the department should be more proactive in helping people. He also said the department should consider, on a discretionary basis, making such emergency funding available to small businesses hit by natural disasters like Storm Desmond.
Defence Minister Simon Coveney has already said that despite legal constraints, the Government will consider making such emergency humanitarian funding available to small businesses.
Mr Keane said: “From our experience, a lot of the people who are applying are elderly, a lot of them are single, widowed people, who’ve been hit with this deluge of water.
“They’re cleaning out their houses, they’ve got the insurance company to deal with, and then they’re asked for all these documents, some of which may have been washed down the river.
“I firmly believe, if somebody is applying to this scheme, there should be a helpline available where people can ring up and somebody takes them through the process.”
His comments came as the Irish Brokers Association (IBA) urged homeowners to do what they can to minimise the impact of storm damage on their properties, to stem rising home insurance premiums.
The IBA’s director of general services Brian McNelis said after some calm winters, homeowners may have forgotten how bad weather damage can be on their property and what action they must take to reduce risk: “Homeowners and businesses alike need to bear in mind that although we can’t stop the inclement weather conditions, we can take steps to minimise the impact.”
The IBA urged people in flood risk zones to ensure external walls and windows are adequately water resistant, to acquire sandbags, and to keep personal and expensive items as high above ground level as possible.
It also advised people to protect against freezing conditions by insulating water pipes and water tanks in the attic, and to know where your property’s stopcock is and how to turn it off in the event of a burst pipe.
“We are not just advising people take action for the greater good to keep claims volumes low — protecting your home against the elements could save people a lot of heartache of having to go to the trouble to make a claim to their insurer or from having to make up the balance financially where an insurance policy doesn’t cover the cost of repair for the entire claim,” Mr McNelis said.