RNLI pledges to act when ‘standards fall short’ after bullying claims

Charity

The Royal National Lifeboat Institution has pledged to act when “standards fall short” after allegations of abuse and assault in the charity.

The Times newspaper reported last week that staff and volunteers had accused the RNLI of “assault, bullying and misconduct by volunteers”.

There are also accusations of “rampant sexism” among the organisation’s ranks, according to the newspaper.

One volunteer told the paper that there was no proper investigation after he was headbutted unconscious at an RNLI event.

The volunteer’s request for the incident to be reported to the police was ignored by a manager, the report said.

The manager then went on to socialise with the perpetrator of the assault the next day, according to The Times.

The RNLI told Third Sector that it was “confident that the allegations were investigated, and appropriate action was taken”.

But The Times said staff at the institution were unable to find any records of an investigation beyond an initial interview with the volunteer.

A statement from the RNLI said: “There is no place for non-inclusive behaviours, including bullying, at the RNLI and we are committed to taking action to tackle such behaviour.

“The RNLI takes allegations and concerns raised by volunteers and staff very seriously and has processes in place to ensure these are heard and investigated.

“We have a code of conduct which outlines the behaviours and values which we expect our staff and volunteers to adhere to. Where these standards fall short, we will act.”

The statement said that the charity ran an “internal activity” over the summer “to remind its staff and volunteers of the levels of behaviour it expects and demands” which promoted a range of support measures and reporting methods.

This resulted in an increase in cases being reported which the charity said it was “committed to investigating thoroughly, taking robust action as necessary”.

The Charity Commission said it had opened a regulatory compliance case into the charity but said that it had “made no finding of wrongdoing” so far. 

A spokesperson for the commission said: “Concerns have been raised with us about the RNLI and as a result, we have opened a regulatory compliance case. 

“We are engaging with the charity to gather more information to determine our next steps.”

The RNLI was founded in 1824 and its latest accounts, for the financial year ending 31 December 2022, show its annual income was £232m and its expenditure was £233m.

The accounts also show it employed just less than 2,000 people in 2022 and had more than 9,700 operational volunteers.

– This article was updated on 27 November to clarify a reference to the manager who did not report the alleged headbutt to the police.

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