Economic and Social Research Council
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Flooding and resilience: the role of children and young people

Severe flooding is now an expected feature of life in many parts of the UK and is the country’s most serious ‘natural’ hazard with more than five million properties at risk. At least 16,000 homes have been flooded so far during the winter of 2015/6, with costs estimated to exceed £5 billion.

Children and young people are known to be acutely affected during and after floods. Research shows children also play a major role in recovery, yet disaster and emergency plans still largely view them as victims and as a homogenous ‘vulnerable’ group, thus ignoring and disenfranchising children and young people.

Understanding children’s perspectives is a vital part of the process of building resilience. A better understanding of how flooding and other disasters affect children and young people can inform more effective policy, enhance resilience and reduce the impact of future emergencies.

The research project ‘Children, young people and flooding: recovery and resilience’, a collaboration between Lancaster University and Save the Children, worked with two groups of flood-affected children and young people. Through a series of creative workshops, they articulated their experiences of the floods and their ideas for improving policy and practice to provide better support and enhance resilience.

“We know from our previous research on the 2007 Hull Floods that children and young people are acutely affected by flooding, losing their homes, friendship networks and familiar surroundings, while also seeing adults under great strain,” says lead researcher Professor Maggie Mort at Lancaster University.

“Many of the children in our current project were flooded out of their homes for more than a year and went through a really tough time, so they possess the knowledge and experience to advise decision makers and contribute to practice about flood recovery and resilience.”

The children developed Flood Manifestos and a six minute film, outlining their policy recommendations for more effective local and national flood prevention, mitigation and adaptation.

Key Flood Manifesto recommendations:

Warnings

  • Children should be given more information before, during and after flooding because they have the right to know what is happening
  • Flood warnings need to be clearer, so people understand them and know what to do and when
  • Awareness should be raised using different media; information should be put up in the community, like it is for fire safety

Flood defences and protection

  • All families and communities should have a flood plan
  • There should be more grants to help make your home more resistant, and help with the red tape
  • Support the development of community flood fund initiatives – to help people who are flooded, or may be in future
  • Recognise that floods cause poverty, so displaced families need help with the extra cost of food and washing clothes

Flood education

  • This should be given in all schools, from Reception onwards. There should be lessons on emergencies and flooding: how to prepare, understanding priorities when it floods, where to go, survival and first aid
  • Include ‘flood tests’: flood simulation events like fire drills and online flood preparation games

Health and well-being

  • Set up groups in schools for children who have been flooded so they can talk and get support
  • Recognise that floods can lead to poor health, such as bad diets if people can’t afford healthy food
  • Disabled people who are flooded need more specialised help

"It's time to stop ignoring young people when it comes to emergency planning, response and recovery. The Flood Manifestos show that they can play a vital role in disaster management," adds Professor Mort. "The creative approach adopted in this project has enabled children to find their voice: they’ve been our co-researchers and now they can be policy advisors."

"For more than 90 years Save the Children has been helping to rebuild lives around the world after emergencies and we know in any emergency it's always children who suffer most,” says Virginia Howells, Save the Children UK Emergencies Manager. “The students at South Ferriby and Staines have shown great insight into the effect flooding had on them and suggested what we can all do to improve the situation for children in the future.”

Further information

The project is funded through the ESRC Urgency Grants Mechanism and led by Professor Maggie Mort with co-investigators Dr Amanda Bingley, Dr Marion Walker, Dr Alison Lloyd Williams from Lancaster University and Virginia Howells of Save the Children.

 

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