Red Cross has learned from Grenfell, says chief executive

06 Sep 2017 News

Mike Adamson, chief executive of the British Red Cross

The Red Cross did not reach out quickly enough to community groups in the wake of the Grenfell fire, and will look again at process for getting cash into the hands of survivors, its chief executive has said.

Mike Adamson, chief executive of the British Red Cross, told Fundraising Magazine that following the fire, his charity is developing its capabilities to engage with communities.

He said that, while the Red Cross reached out to some larger local organisations to coordinate fundraising, failure to connect with grassroots organisations on the ground has since cost the charity.

He also said that the charity had focused more on physically donated goods, and will engage with government on models to get cash to survivors more quickly and fairly.

The British Red Cross, in conjunction with the London Emergency Trust, raised over £5m for those affected by the Grenfell fire. However, in the immediate aftermath of the disaster, the Red Cross focused more on managing physical goods donated by the public, rather than “getting cash into the hands of people fast”.

In an interview with Fundraising Magazine, Adamson said the volume of physical goods donated in the aftermath of the fire “was unlike anything” the Red Cross had ever seen.

He also said that, having stewarded his organisation through a number of domestic terrorist attacks, as well as through international emergency appeals in the last year, Grenfell “has been more complicated than anything we’ve had to deal with”.

Adamson said the Red Cross is now “talking to our partners in London, and more widely with the Charity Commission, about how in the future we can better coordinate fundraising so we can have less of a proliferation of appeals”, but said a domestic Disaster Emergency Committee model is not the answer.  

Grenfell will be ‘watershed’ for the country

In the interview, Adamson said that the Grenfell disaster would come to be seen as a “watershed moment” both for the UK, and for the British Red Cross itself. He also said that the disaster has almost “transcended” the attacks this year on Manchester, Westminster and London Bridge.

“There’s almost an irony that the thing we had dreaded was another terror attack and had geared up for and practised for but the thing that has transcended the impact of the terror attacks is Grenfell. It’s going to be a watershed in so many ways for the country and indeed for how, certainly for the Red Cross, we think about emergency response recovery and funds distribution in the future.”

Adamson said that Grenfell exposed issues of “trust in authority” in many communities, and said “one of the capabilities we want to build into all future emergency responses is the ability to engage with the community differently”.

Local authorities ‘have raised their game’

Adamson said that in the weeks and months since the fire local authorities and government “have raised their game”, he was critical of the response of both, particularly in the immediate aftermath of the disaster.

“The authorities have raised their game but I think by common consent it wasn’t where it needed to be at the beginning. It’s not an accident that there have been changes of leadership at the Kensington and Chelsea council”.

Mike Adamson was speaking to Fundraising Magazine as part of a wider piece on the various Grenfell fundraising campaigns. The article will be available to read in full on Friday. 

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