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The British Red Cross says being British and Christian is holding it back

"The Decline and Fall of Western Civilisation" will surely feature a chapter on "What the British Red Cross learned from the Grenfell Disaster".

It's not yet 3 months since 80 people were killed and 70 injured at the Grenfell Tower.  

70 fire engines and 250 firefighters took 60 hours to extinguish the fire.

Firemen rescued 65 people.  100 ambulance crew with 20 ambulances, Air Ambulance helicopters with multiple-teams of doctors and paramedics attended.  Britain's free NHS reported 74 people were hospitalised with 20 in intensive care.

While the fire was still burning Britain's PM Theresa May announced an initial $8.5M fund for people affected.  People made homeless would get around $9,000 - $800 in cash and the rest to a bank account.    

Three days later her government announced 68 new flats in the local borough were to be made available to survivors.

By the end of the week The Evening Standard newspaper had raised more than $3.6M and it was just one of many appealing for money - including the British Red Cross.

MIKE ADAMSON: WHAT THE RED CROSS LEARNED AT GRENFELL TOWER

For the Red Cross, the response has also been one of our biggest ever challenges. Overall we are very proud of what we did (and it’s not over). But it has catalysed learning about our operations, our relationships, and our identity.

Generous British people responded with overwhelming kindness.  But British Red Cross CEO Mike Adamson wasn't leveraging the brand for that.  He wanted cash. He reports the British Red Cross "converted three football pitches worth of donated goods into cash for Grenfell through our shops".

"IN the end, more effort was put into managing donated goods rather than getting cash into the hands of people fast, as we would do in our international programming".

"Cash for Grenfell" is a bit of a theme in Mike Adamson's report. So far he's up almost $10M in the "Cash for Grenfell" operation. He reports it this way:

We raised £5.6m for the bereaved and hospitalised (which is being distributed through our partner London Emergencies Trust).

It works like this. The British Red Cross receives 5.6M quid leveraging its brand to call for donations.  But it doesn't distribute the money.  It just clips the ticket, subtracting a slab for its costs and passes it on to related mates down the line to do the same thing.  Running appeals is sexy and good for the career.  Dealing with people in need and being subject to audits on the way the money was spent isn't.

The British Red Cross CEO is proud of this:

We influenced government to create extended leave-to-remain for those whose (immigration) status was either irregular or they were caught up in the asylum system.

We called on government to ensure that social security payments would not be reduced by receipt of grant money.

The people who set the British Red Cross up could never have imagined it would be used against British Christendom in this way. The current CEO thinks being British and Christian is holding the organisation back.   

There is a risk that in a very diverse community like Grenfell, an organisation with the words ‘British’ and ‘Cross’ in its title is confused with a Christian, establishment organisation.

The British Red Cross has a proud history. If you persevere, you'll find it hidden away amongst the apologies for being Christian and British on the current redcross.org.uk website

http://www.redcross.org.uk/About-us/Who-we-are/History-and-origin/Beginning-of-the-Movement

The formation of the British Red Cross

Painting of Battle of Solferino

© InfoIn July 1870, following the outbreak of war between France and Prussia, Colonel Loyd-Lindsay (later Lord Wantage of Lockinge) wrote a letter to The Times calling for a National Society to be formed in Britain following the example of other European nations. On 4 August 1870 a public meeting was held in London and a resolution passed that "a National Society be formed in this country for aiding sick and wounded soldiers in time of war and that the said Society be formed upon the Rules laid down by the Geneva Convention of 1864".

The British National Society for Aid to the Sick and Wounded in War was formed, giving aid and relief to both warring armies during the Franco-Prussian War and in subsequent wars and campaigns during the 19th century under the protection of the red cross emblem.

In 1905 the British National Society for Aid to the Sick and Wounded in War was reconstituted as British Red Cross and granted its first Royal Charter in 1908 by HM King Edward VII and Queen Alexandra, who became its president.

Our society has turned full circle when the things that made us great are used to destroy us.

If I was the British Prime Minister I'd call Mr Adamson in for a quick two-line chat:

"The British Red Cross can't give away cash from Christian British people to people in need?  Then shut up shop.  We don't need you representing us and we'll find someone who will".

 

MIKE ADAMSON: WHAT THE RED CROSS LEARNED AT GRENFELL TOWER

http://www.thinknpc.org/blog/what-the-red-cross-learned-at-grenfell/

Michael Adamson Feb2015

Mike Adamson became chief executive of the British Red Cross in October 2014. Before that he was managing director of operations, responsible for the leadership of the British Red Cross’ UK and international programmes and its advocacy work. He previously held several other positions in the organisation between 1992 and 2003, including head of international programme development, director for the London and south-east region, and director of strategy, planning and information systems.

The human trauma arising from the Grenfell Tower fire will change the lives of those affected forever, almost entirely for the worse. Its knock-on effects are pervasive and insidious, risking undermining confidence in authority, not only in Kensington and Chelsea but everywhere where a vulnerable community or group are dependent on the authorities for their protection.

For the Red Cross, the response [to Grenfell] has been one of our biggest ever challenges.

For the Red Cross, the response has also been one of our biggest ever challenges. Overall we are very proud of what we did (and it’s not over). But it has catalysed learning about our operations, our relationships, and our identity. And of course, the fire came on top of the response that we had already made to attacks in London Bridge, Manchester, Finsbury Park and Westminster Bridge. It has been a truly unprecedented period.

HOW WE RESPONDED

In brief, the Red Cross mobilised volunteers from the early hours of the night of the fire, working 24/7 for several weeks and deploying close to 1,000 trained volunteers in total. We ran a 24/7 support line, converted three football pitches worth of donated goods into cash for Grenfell through our shops, and raised £5.6m for the bereaved and hospitalised (which is being distributed through our partner London Emergencies Trust).

We influenced government to create extended leave-to-remain for those whose status was either irregular or they were caught up in the asylum system. We also called for them to ensure that benefits eligibility would not be affected by receipt of emergency grants.

Operationally, one of the biggest challenges was matching volunteers’ skills and capacity with the scale and depth of trauma being experienced by people in the community and leadership on the ground.

We have a pool of highly trained pyscho-social support volunteers accustomed to working in very challenging international situations. Many more volunteers have been selected for their empathy and trained to work in rest centres and services such as support at home and support to refugees.

But our capacity was stretched to the limit. To have enough people able to offer support at scale to very distressed people? This was way beyond what we needed to do for the terror attacks.

WHAT WE’VE LEARNED

That we should have better coordinated with the community

In parallel to our own response, the voluntary and community sector and faith communities around the Grenfell Tower did an extraordinary job as first responders. They were on the ground from the beginning providing direct support to people affected, including those unlikely to come forwards to the authorities.

It took us too long to reach out to the real grassroots groups. That cost us in terms of trust.

We reached out to some of the larger local organisations from the beginning to help coordinate fundraising. But it took us too long to reach out to the real grassroots groups and that cost us in terms of trust through the process. We are still trying to address this.

This may also have been the reason that more effort was put into managing donated goods rather than getting cash into the hands of people fast, as we would do in our international programming. There is a real lesson here about how we engage with a community that we do not know. We need to add people with different skills to our response and recovery teams. We also need to explore the extent to which our scale and brand give us convening power to help bring organisations together and respond dynamically to need.

That we need a contingency when those in charge fail

Like many disciplines, emergency response has a language all of its own with references to Gold, Silver and Bronze command. The Red Cross is part of this world and in our role as an ‘auxiliary’ to government we are written into the local resilience plan of every local authority in the country. This has been invoked in all the recent emergencies. It depends on command and control and discipline—every organisation has a clearly defined role, including the Red Cross.

But how should we handle a situation where the authorities are failing? At what point do we break ranks and ‘call it’ in a way that is also constructive and enables the working relationships that remain critical to continue to operate?

How should we handle a situation where the authorities are failing? At what point do we break ranks?

As well as our formal ‘auxiliary’ role, three of the seven Red Cross fundamental principles are ‘humanity’, ‘impartiality’ and ‘independence’. There is a built-in tension here—we need leaders who can navigate this ambiguity and make good judgements in the interests of the people we are here to serve.

That we must be as representative as possible

The Red Cross enjoys huge advantages because of our identity: we have been around almost 150 years, our brand is very well known, and we are changing massively to be relevant to the world of today and tomorrow.

But we have some challenges. There is a risk that in a very diverse community like Grenfell, an organisation with the words ‘British’ and ‘Cross’ in its title is confused with a Christian, establishment organisation. Yet we are completely impartial and our ambition is to harness our access to the ‘establishment’ in the service of people in crisis.

We are nowhere near as diverse as we need to be in our volunteer base, our staffing or our leadership.

And there is no escaping the fact that with shining exceptions, such as our refugee services, we are nowhere near as diverse as we need to be in our volunteer base, our staffing or our leadership. We cannot be ‘of’ every community, but we can be much more representative of the population as a whole. That is why, as CEO, I am personally leading our inclusion and diversity strategy.

That donations in a disaster can be much better managed

Finally on fundraising, we don’t think the answer for domestic emergencies is a UK DEC as some have suggested. But there is a real challenge to improve coordination of fundraising efforts and distribution mechanisms.

WHY WE’LL ACT ON THESE LESSONS

There is so much to learn from the tragedy and we are actively doing so now as we continue to work on behalf of Grenfell’s survivors.

We know there is much to do to improve … We are absolutely committed to rising to this challenge.

Collectively, we must be careful not to develop policy and strategy purely on the basis of a hopefully very rare event like Grenfell. But we know there is much to do to improve community resilience, response and recovery planning anyway. We are absolutely committed to rising to this challenge and being the best we can possibly be in the service of people in crisis.

IMAGE CREDIT: MATT PERCIVAL

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