Important update about RNLI media coverage for this weekend
We have made the decision to be clearer about some of the issues that we have been dealing with, and have tried to address as strongly as we can (which is difficult while the appeal process is still underway) the inaccurate, one-sided and speculative news in the media at the moment centred around Whitby.
Most importantly, we have explained more clearly that these issues are not down to harmless banter, but unacceptable behaviour by people who represent us. Please find our full response below. You can also refer to the statement and film that Paul shared last week if you require any more detail. This can be found here.
Recently you may have read about some well-publicised disputes at a handful of our 238 lifeboat stations over the past couple of years. Today, we want to take the opportunity to put our side of the story across.
The RNLI is a unique organisation. As an emergency service, we must adhere to the very highest standards of safety and behave in a way that meets the expectations of a modern emergency responder. And as a charity, we take our ethical and legal responsibilities very seriously. The examples you have read about 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. We know that friendly banter is a key part of this.
But to be clear – we simply will not tolerate lifeboats being taken for joyrides in rough weather without full crew. We don’t accept that hard core, graphic pornography has any place at a lifeboat station. We will not tolerate threats of violence towards our volunteers or staff. We will not stand for bullying or aggressive behaviour.
To provide some context, 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 cannot operate in the same way we did 30 or 40 years ago, when the world was a very different place and so we’ve understood the need to change. Some of this change has been implemented to protect our volunteer crews – 90 per cent of who don’t come from a maritime background – and to make sure they have the very best training, equipment and day-to-day support essential to providing a 24/7 lifesaving service. Other change has been necessary because we want to live up to our own high standards and the scrutiny being placed on charities.
We have not got everything right during these changes, but we are working hard with all our volunteers to ensure they have the support and the training they require to operate a modern lifesaving service.
But what hasn’t changed is our desire to uphold the values of the RNLI. We have to ask ourselves – what kind of charity do we want to be? What kind of charity do you want to volunteer for? What kind of charity do you want to support?
We are a charity that our volunteers, supporters and those we rescue can trust to do the right thing – whether that’s rescuing those in peril, keeping our volunteers safe or making sure anyone who is part of the RNLI feels welcome and valued.
During the 194 years since the RNLI was founded in 1824, we’ve aspired to be a decent, honourable charity that is respectful of others. We’re proud of our volunteers’ professionalism and our organisation’s commitment to being a modern emergency service and principled charity and we don’t think we should settle for anything other that.
There are a lot of supporters and volunteers who are angry and upset at what they have read in the news and we are doing what we can to respond to complaints and to set the story straight.
We mustn’t forget that the vast number of our lifeboat stations are still operating without issue and that our fundraisers, community safety and education volunteers are doing brilliant work to help sustain our charity and fulfil our mission.
Thank you for everything you are doing.