Grenfell tragedy showed charities need to improve coordination, report finds

A new report, published by Muslim Aid, has revealed the lessons learned by the third sector in response to the 2017 Grenfell Tower disaster.

The report, Mind the Gap: A Review of the Voluntary Sector Response to the Grenfell Tragedy, found many voluntary organisations, however ill-prepared, stepped up to the challenge of meeting the needs of the affected community, where statutory authorities fell short, especially in the early stages.

However, the report found that the consequences of the tragedy, which left 72 people dead and hundreds homeless, were “compounded by weak leadership”.

The report highlights that leadership in the early stages, conducted by the local council, was “slow to provide direction, coordination and information and to address multiple pressing needs”.

“Particularly in the first few weeks, this void was filled mainly by the community itself, supported by an array of local organisations and businesses, as well as individual volunteers and representatives from external organisations,” the report said.

It has subsequently identified challenges and opportunities for the on-going work of the sector in working with those affected, notably coordination between the charity sector and others.

“In response to this terrible tragedy, the great British public demonstrated immense generosity, and local volunteers and members of the community stepped forward to support their neighbours, friends and strangers. This was voluntary action at its best,” Charity Commission deputy CEO, David Holdsworth said.

“But as this report shows, there are important lessons for the voluntary sector to learn to ensure that charities’ responses to future disasters are as targeted and coordinated as possible. We owe it to the survivors, who have shown immense dignity and determination, to act on these findings, alongside those of other reviews.”

Key recommendations suggested by the report for augmenting UK disaster preparedness are as follows:

- Draw on local capacities

"In a major, complex disaster, local secular and faith organisations, although they may not have experience in emergency response, can draw on their local rootedness to act quickly and sensitively in line with the needs of communities they understand. This capability needs to be better appreciated and supported including in partnership with local authorities and national actors with expertise in emergency response."

- Context matters

"Disaster response systems, behaviours and interventions all need to be tailored to the varying local socio-economic and cultural dynamics in the short and longer term."

- Embrace diversity within emergency response

"Diverse communities need to receive support that is sensitive to their varying needs. Such capabilities need to be embraced as core to emergency response in the UK going forward."

- Strengthen coordination

"More effective mechanisms need to be developed, both by the voluntary sector itself and governmental authorities, to better harness the collective capabilities of the voluntary sector, including those offered by faith organisations, in emergency response."

- Act and speak out

"When the effects of a disaster are overlaid with inadequate action and injustice the voluntary sector needs to consciously and continuously strike the right balance between practical action and finding different ways of speaking out in support of the needs and rights of the people who are affected."

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