UK Maritime Charities Sector and Collaboration

January 10, 2019

Seafarers UK - Our team Barry BryantMy first Maritime Charities Group Blog is a welcome opportunity to reflect on how the Maritime Charities sector in the UK has changed and how the Maritime Charities Group has fitted into that change.

In 2003 the Maritime Charities Funding Group was established. Our idea was to collaborate more closely by understanding one another’s policies and criteria, sharing information, jointly funding larger grants and encouraging good practice.  More common sense than rocket science, but it had never happened before.

We started to get a hold on the size and shape of the UK maritime community, and we kept that longitudinal demographic research going and hopefully that will continue.  Only by tracking our specific maritime community can we make any sensible plans for the future – like when the money’s going to run out!

Those vital numbers underpinned all our subsequent work. We divided up the maritime community into four groups:

  • Older Seafarers and their dependants
  • Working age seafarers i.e. present and past, but under retirement age
  • Families and dependants of those working age seafarers – often with very different needs
  • Young people in maritime youth groups – the seafarers of tomorrow

Each group was researched externally and professionally, and the results collated into a major report titled ‘Supporting Seafarers and their Families; Challenges for the Future’. This Report was presented at a Conference in May 2007, when I think the Group really came of age – I think we surprised ourselves how successful it was.

With such a head of steam it was obvious that the joined-up approach should continue, and in a wider sense than just funding, and eventually the MCFG became the MCG, the Maritime Charities Group. By this stage the Group consisted of the MNWB, Trinity House, Seafarers UK, Nautilus Welfare, the new RNRMC, and the Seamen’s Hospital Society.  In more recent years we have added Greenwich Hospital, the ITF Seafarers Trust, and Lloyds Register Foundation, so we now have nine members – all largely funders – but that doesn’t have to remain the case.

In my view the great strength of the MCG is that it is not, and quite deliberately not, a formal organisation.  I describe it as a coalition of the willing; members have no contracts; organisations can come and go at will if they wish (they tend to come rather than go!) but we do have an ambitious  vision for our sector.

The MCG ‘Navigating Change’ Conference took place in October 2017.  Following much external research, the overall aim was to assess if the UK Maritime Welfare Charities sector was fit for purpose for the foreseeable future – basically, a health check – and, like most health checks, there were a few things we didn’t particularly like to hear!  The Navigating Change report identified 10 major  challenges for the future.

We have the challenges clearly laid out for us in Navigating Change but where does the MCG go from here?

Perhaps the first – and maybe the easiest – decision was to hear those who said that a decade between Conferences was far too long.  We decided that in October 2019 there will be another MCG-sponsored conference at Trinity House.  This will be a stocktake on how far we’ve got with the Navigating Change challenges and we will be focusing on how we can improve the quality of impact reporting in our maritime charity sector.

In  2019 will see at least one major change, in that I shall be stepping down from both Seafarers UK and the Chairmanship of the MCG.  As the MCG grows it is perhaps time for an independent Chairman, someone with a broad knowledge of our seafaring sectors and with enough vision to break down assumed barriers and think across traditional boundaries.

– Commodore Barry Bryant CVO RN, Seafarers UK Director General