Here are the results of a Somerset Rivers Authority flood risk consultation carried out in places that were badly affected by flooding in Somerset in 2013-14.
Just under 400 people took part in the consultation, which covered a range of issues including experience of flooding, awareness of the work of Somerset Rivers Authority (SRA) and access to flood insurance.
The main places consulted were Athelney, Burrowbridge, East Lyng, Fordgate, Moorland, Muchelney, Oath, Thorney, West Yeo and Westonzoyland, with sidelines run in North Curry and Chadmead.
The key findings are summarised below – or you can download a copy of the full SRA flood risk consultation report.
Hard copies are also available on request. Please email the SRA or give us a ring.
Thank you to all those who took part.
Key findings about flood insurance
Of those who responded to the consultation, 76% had flood insurance, 22% did not, and 2% reported that they could not get insurance.
74% were able to access affordable flood insurance without problems, while 21% had experienced some difficulty with this.
However, for those that were flooded out of their homes, problems with affordability rose to 41%.
Comments showed that many had experienced large increases in premiums, sometimes more than 100%. Some respondents reported excesses of between £3,000 and £30,000.
56% had remained with the same insurer since 2013-14 and 32% had changed insurer, with the remaining respondents stating this was not applicable to them.
62% were not aware of Flood Re, a joint initiative between the Government and insurers to make insurance more affordable.
47% of respondents agreed or strongly agreed that their household was less at risk of flooding now than in 2013-14, 32% were unsure, 19% either disagreed or strongly disagreed, and 2% expressed no opinion.
46% agreed or strongly agreed that their community was more prepared than in 2013/14, 33% were unsure, 17% either disagreed or strongly disagreed, and 3% expressed no opinion.
47% agreed or strongly agreed that works undertaken by the SRA and other public bodies has reduced the risk of flooding, 33% were unsure, 18% either disagreed or strongly disagreed, 2% expressed no opinion.
The full report has further details and a breakdown of responses to some questions by parish.
Flood insurance: a ‘big challenge’
Flood insurance clearly remains a big challenge for many people.
If you are having difficulties getting affordable flood insurance, there are a few things that are worth checking.
If you use a broker, make sure they can access Flood Re, a not-for-profit fund owned and managed by the insurance industry, which operates ‘behind the scenes’, enabling insurance companies to insure themselves against flooding losses. Since it was set up in 2016 almost a quarter of a million properties have benefited from the scheme. If you need to make a flood claim, your insurer will process your claim in the usual way; the customer does not deal directly with Flood Re.
It is always worth getting quotes from online price comparison sites as well. Check that your insurer is quoting for the correct address, as in rural areas there can be properties of the same name in close proximity to each other. Even if you intend to stay with the same insurer, it is still worth getting quotes from other companies, which you can take back to your preferred company to ask for a more competitive price.
New types of flood insurance are also now emerging. For example, there are schemes which use sensors to detect water, automatically triggering a payout for a pre-agreed sum when the water reaches a certain depth. Whilst we are not able to recommend any particular insurer or scheme, companies such as Flood Flash are now offering this event-based insurance. This type of insurance might also be able to cover property which Flood Re does not: for example, agricultural premises, businesses, or residential premises built since 2009.
More advice and help
An online guide for homeowners, designed by Mary Dhonau of Know Your Flood Risk, has practical ideas about improving property level flood resistance and resilience. It can be very frustrating for householders when property level adaptation and local knowledge are not taken into consideration, but Flood Re are now proposing lower premiums where property flood resilience measures have been installed. They are also working with insurers to try and enable householders to ‘build back better’ after a flood event, making homes more resilient and reducing the effects of flooding. These proposed changes to the scheme are currently under review by the Government, with Flood Re hoping they will come into effect by 2021.
Although some time has passed since the events of 2013-14, we are aware that many people still struggle with the memories, which can take a toll on emotional health. If you feel you would benefit from talking to someone, you can self-refer to Somerset Talking Therapies, either through their website or by phone on 0300 323 0033. Alternatively, you can talk with your GP who can make a referral for you. Those who are experiencing emotional difficulties as a direct result of flooding will be seen as a priority by the service.
Somerset County Council and Somerset Rivers Authority have been in discussion with the insurance sector through a project called Climatewise, to try and help find innovative solutions to the problems that some people face in obtaining affordable flood insurance. Given the increasing environmental pressures caused by climate change, Climatewise is using the insurance industry’s international expertise in risk assessment to see how the sector might be able to respond differently in emergencies.
Climatewise have identified Somerset as a preferred location to undertake a pilot study, where Somerset County Council would be involved in helping consider and develop these new ways of thinking. This project is at an early stage, but has the potential to make a real difference to the future accuracy and affordability of flood insurance.
More information about the SRA
Many of you expressed confidence in the work Somerset Rivers Authority is doing to reduce flood risk and increase resilience but would like further information.
More information about the work of the SRA is available across this website.
A useful summary of recent activities is the Somerset Rivers Authority annual report 2018-19.