Reassurance for RNLI fundraisers after Skegness coxwain quits

The RNLI in Skegness relies on its fundraisers to stay operational.
The RNLI in Skegness relies on its fundraisers to stay operational.

The Royal National Lifeboat Institute has reassured its fundraisers their efforts are valued after a Skegness lifeboat skipper quit his job claiming the charity was 'misleading the public'.

Many residents said they would no longer support the charity after an interview with former Coxwain Antony Kelly appeared in the Daily Mail newspaper.

The article highlighted how the The Mail on Sunday reported the RNLI is spending millions on projects abroad, including buying burkinis for Muslim women in Africa.

It claimed that the charity is slashing more than 100 jobs in the UK despite sitting on a cash pile of £126 million

In the article Mr Kelly, 51, who had been a crew member for 14 years before quitting last month, claimed that the charity is in a ‘downward spiral’.

Mr Kelly told The Mail: "I have chosen to leave the institution as this culture needs exposing. If I were to do it from within, I would be sacked immediately for being disloyal.’

He said his disillusionment stemmed from the handling of a probe into a fire on an inshore lifeboat in May 2016.

The article said: "Three colleagues were searching for a person reported to be in the sea off Skegness. When one of the crew tried to fire a flare, it struck a colleague and fell into the boat, setting it on fire. The crew escaped but the vessel was lost.

"The crew member who fired the flare insisted he had done so correctly but an investigation found the flare had been held upside down.

"Mr Kelly claimed the RNLI ‘hushed up’ the incident and volunteers were ordered not to discuss it. However, the RNLI said it did not blame the crew for the incident and took no action against them.

In the article, Mr Kelly, who served as a reservist with the Royal Anglian Regiment in Iraq between 2003 and 2004, claimed there is ‘way too much’ political correctness in the RNLI.

He said: "You have to be so careful about what you say. You can’t make jokes any longer. If you say anything to anyone that they don’t like, they can get rid of you.

"People are not being told the full story. Whether it’s misleading by omission, it’s misleading,’ he said.

"‘I support training people overseas. I also think most people will not mind a small amount.

"What I don’t like is the way they use lifeboats to fund other things. They use us as a shopfront to get money in. Once it’s in that bucket, they can do what they want with it.’

We spoke to the RNLI regarding the article. In response to the claims Mr Kelly made regarding political correctness, a spokesman said: "We recognise the years of dedication it takes to become a crew member and do not stand volunteers down lightly. But, like any emergency service, the RNLI sets high standards and expects all its volunteers and staff to set an example, not just in terms of their maritime expertise but also in their behaviour and respect for others.

"We fully understand and respect the close bond and camaraderie of our crew and other volunteers and we know that friendly banter is a key part of this. But, to be clear, we will not tolerate sexual harassment, bullying or discrimination.

"We will continue to challenge any inappropriate behaviours and practices by staff or volunteers, and we do this for the thousands of volunteers who are committed to doing the right thing as they operate our 238 lifeboat stations 24/7.

"To provide some context, 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."

In response to the claims Mr Kelly made regarding fundraising, in particular relating to international work, the RNLI spokesman said:

"We have not misled people about where their donations go. The RNLI's international work is reported in detail in our annual reports, on our website and in the media. We talk about it in our members’ magazine and in our emails to supporters. When people donate online, they are notified that 2% goes to our international work.

"We actively seek donations and run campaigns specifically for our international lifesaving work, including the Isle of Man’s International Development Fund and Department for International Development (DfID) in the UK, both of which have made substantial donations to our international work this year."

For more detail see here: https://rnli.org/news-and-media/2019/september/15/information-about-the-rnlis-international-work