News & Events
Here's our side of the story...
You may have read a story about the RNLI in the Daily Mail on Saturday 12 May, which gave a one-sided and inaccurate version of recent incidents at our charity. We have been compelled to stand down a small number of volunteer lifeboat crew members, and the article suggested that this is the result of staff at our headquarters becoming disconnected with our volunteers on the coast.
Now, I expect our organisation to be held to account by the media. In fact, I welcome external scrutiny. But that scrutiny should be fair and balanced. This article was not fair and balanced. It included comments from a small number of former crew aiming to discredit the RNLI, as well as unattributed quotes that can’t be verified. What was not reported in this article – or in other similar reports – is our side of the story. As an emergency service, we must adhere to the very highest standards of safety and behave in a way that would be expected of a modern emergency responder. And as a charity, we take our ethical and legal responsibilities very seriously. The examples mentioned in the national press recently have involved serious incidents that we were duty-bound to challenge.
We do not stand volunteers down lightly. We recognise the years of dedication and the skill involved in becoming a crew member, helm or coxswain. We fully understand and respect the close bond and camaraderie of our crew and other volunteers.
But there are some behaviours we will not tolerate. We simply cannot allow lifeboats to be taken for joyrides in rough weather without full crew. We don’t accept that hardcore, graphic pornography has any place at a lifeboat station. We will not tolerate threats of violence towards our volunteers or staff. And we will not stand for bullying or aggressive behaviour.
I am relieved to report that such incidents are comparatively rare. The recent issues involve less than 1% of our 6,000 operational volunteers. We are proud of our brave, decent men and women dedicated to saving lives and committed to acting with integrity.
We are also proud of using the donations we receive in the right way. It costs £180M a year to run the RNLI and the Charity Commission advises that, if fundraising stopped today, we should have enough in the bank to keep running our crucial service for between 6–12 months. We also need to ensure we have enough surplus funds for planned capital expenditure over the next few years – the ongoing upgrade of our fleet and the provision of new lifeboat stations.
So I want to assure you that we continue to be a charity that can be trusted to do the right thing – whether that’s rescuing those in peril, keeping our volunteers safe, or making sure that supporters like you are welcomed and valued. Since the RNLI was founded in 1824, we’ve aspired to be a decent, honourable charity that is respectful of others. I don’t think we should settle for anything other than that.
I hope you agree and I’d like to thank you for taking the time to read our side of the story. Please do share it with your family and friends so that they get a balanced view. It’s been a tough week for the RNLI, but with the courage and support of our people – people like you – we’ll continue to save lives, just as we always have.
RNLI Chief Executive