Maritime Charities Group Submission to The Review of the Role of Civil Society

August 3, 2020

Dear Mr. Kruger

I am writing on behalf of the Maritime Charities Group (MCG) in response to your call for contributions to the debate about how civil society can facilitate the post COVID-19 recovery.

The maritime charity welfare sector has stepped up to support our seafaring communities, pumping over £6m so far into COVID-related grants. MCG members are digging deep and some are raiding their reserves to ensure that seafarers, their families and communities are supported in these unprecedented times.

Our members are working together to co-ordinate their response, fund delivery partners working on the ground and fast-track grants to those in need. Initiatives range from emergency grants for individuals to revenue support to keep seafarer centres operating in ports around the UK and abroad. And it’s not just working seafarers who need help – ex-seafarers are some of the most vulnerable and hard-to-reach in our society and seafarer families are suffering too.

Our success to date is due to a number of factors:

  • Our response has been agile, with funding provided for both local, national and international schemes
  • We have worked in partnership with local communities, responding to the issues they identify, rather than imposing the solutions we think will work
  • We don’t just give out money – we go beyond the traditional charity/donor relationship by investing in the future of communities
  • We operate in an open and transparent way, encouraging a two-way flow of information between ourselves as grant-givers and the frontline charities we seek to support

With our help, a number of initiatives have been developed which provide useful learning for the future. These include:

Funding to reach new markets

Review area: the role of philanthropy, social investment and business

Seafarers UK, the Fishmongers’ Company’s Fisheries Charitable Trust (FCFCT), with a group of trusted partners, developed the COVID-19 Rapid Response Grant Programme (RRGP) to assist food charities, fishing and seafood businesses. The fund has provided diversification opportunities for seafood and fisheries businesses, promoted the consumption and sale of local seafood and provided community meals using seafood. The Programme has made an important contribution to the continuing economic sustainability of our fishing communities and models of operation developed during the COVID-19 pandemic will endure into the future.

Debt and money advice

The Seafarers Advice and Information Line (SAIL) is the specialist Citizens Advice service for seafarers and is joint funded by three MCG members – Seafarers Hospital Society, Seafarers UK and Greenwich Hospital. Over the past few months, from April to June 2020, the number of inquiries received by SAIL has increased by over a third to 610, compared with 446 during the same quarter last year. At the same time, the financial outcomes achieved for clients have more than doubled, from £353,889 in April- June 2019 to £813,300 in April-June 2020.

This is only the beginning. We know that with mounting debts and redundancies  on the horizon the demand for independent advice, and money advice in particular, can only grow, so we need to make sure that the advice sector is adequately resourced to meet the need, not just in the short-term, but with in-built sustainability for the long road ahead.

Health and wellbeing

Review area: how civil society can support the NHS and other public services more effectively

Financial security and mental health and wellbeing are closely interlinked and the impact of COVID-19 on the mental health and wellbeing of seafarers and their families has been widely reported. With hundreds of thousands of seafarers stranded at sea and suicide rates on the increase the need to provide mental health and wellbeing support has never been greater.

We need to learn from successful initiatives like the Seafit Programme, funded by Seafarers UK and delivered in partnership by the Seafarers Hospital Society and Fishermen’s Mission, to bring health and wellbeing support to fishermen and their families at the harbourside. The Big White Wall, an online mental health and wellbeing support service is available free to all seafarers and their families through the Seafarers Hospital Society.

Each of these needs to be funded and replicated across seafaring communities. Our charitable investment in health promotion and health provision for seafarers and their families picks up some of the most hard to reach in our scattered coastal communities and they are those that are not regularly engaged with NHS services.

Faith Based Organisations

Review Area: the role of faith groups in strengthening social capital and community resilience

Many members of the MCG provide funding for faith-based charities to provide welfare services to seafarers and seafaring communities in the UK and internationally. These charities are adept at responding quickly to immediate welfare needs and are spurred on by their faith to be at the side of seafarers and their families in times of crisis.

Recently the Fishermen’s Mission recounted: “We delivered Parcels of Kindness to show that although we are not out and about, our fishermen are not forgotten. The parcels contained a range of healthy fruit and vegetables plus a few treats. It was a mammoth task covering Norfolk and Suffolk but has been very well received. One couple were overwhelmed to receive their parcel after five weeks of isolation.”. Read more about this project.

Technology has enabled The Mission to Seafarers to provide a Digital Chaplaincy Service during the COVID-19 pandemic  and this has been funded by Seafarers UK.

The Prime Minister’s letter announcing the Review expressed a wish for “a better system for supporting our communities: more local, more entrepreneurial and more trusting.” The MCG and the charities we fund have demonstrated all of these aspirations over the difficult period of COVID-19. We have many more good stories to share and would be delighted to do so. A further summary of expenditure and projects is contained in the appendix to this submission.

In conclusion we have to point out that despite our own significant investment during the COVID-19 pandemic in developing services and responding to the crisis, none of our maritime welfare charities have been able to access any Government COVID-19 funds set aside for the charitable sector.

I hope the Review goes well and I look forward to reading the outcomes and recommendations in the near future.

Yours sincerely

Valerie Coleman

Programme Manager

Maritime Charities Group

07515 050301

valerie.coleman@seafarers.uk