Joint Committee on Draft Civil Contingencies Bill Minutes of Evidence


Memorandum from the National Voluntary Aid Society Emergency Committee (NVASEC)

  I am pleased to enclose the National Voluntary Aid Society Emergency Committee's submission in response to the June 2003 consultation document on the draft Civil Contingencies Bill. The National Voluntary Aid Society Emergency Committee is the co-ordinating body for the three Voluntary Aid Societies in the UK: the British Red Cross Society, St John Ambulance and St Andrew's Ambulance.

  The National Voluntary Aid Society Emergency Committee welcomes the Civil Contingencies Bill. When enacted, it will provide a much-needed single framework for civil protection in the UK with clear reporting lines and accountabilities. Our submission makes three substantive comments on the draft Bill.

1.  HUMANITARIAN SUPPORT

  Humanitarian support for people affected by a major emergency is an essential part of emergency response. Given this, the absence of any mention of humanitarian relief in the draft legislation is a significant omission, which should be addressed, in the final text. This should include specific recognition of this key aspect of civil protection.

2.  ROLE OF THE VOLUNTARY SECTOR

  We consider that the Act should be more inclusive in its approach to the involvement of the voluntary sector in emergency planning and response. Voluntary sector resources are substantial, and would be required in the event of a major emergency. The final legislation should place a statutory responsibility on Category 1 Responders to involve fully, relevant voluntary organisations in all aspects of civil protection.

3.  DEFINITION OF "EMERGENCY"

  The meaning of the term "emergency" in sections 1 and 17 of the draft Bill does not place sufficient emphasis on "a serious threat" or major emergency.

  The National Voluntary Aid Society Emergency Committee would very much welcome an opportunity to give oral evidence on our submission to the Joint Parliamentary Committee.

The National Voluntary Aid Society Emergency Committee has three substantive comments on the draft Bill

1.  HUMANITARIAN SUPPORT

  Humanitarian support for people affected by major emergency is an essential part of emergency response. It must become an increasingly important element in emergency planning. There needs to be specific recognition of this key aspect of civil protection in the Act. Given the importance of any responding to the human needs created by emergencies, the absence of any mention of humanitarian support in the draft legislation is a significant omission, which needs to be addressed in the final text.

  The Regulations and Guidance should also be used to clarify how the psycho-social needs of individuals affected will be addressed and which organisation(s) will have responsibility for co-ordinating meeting humanitarian needs.

2.  ROLE OF THE VOLUNTARY SECTOR

  The National Voluntary Aid Society Emergency Committee considers that the Act should be more inclusive in its approach to the involvement of the voluntary sector in emergency planning and response. The final legislation should place a statutory responsibility on Category 1 Responders to involve relevant voluntary organisations fully in all aspects of civil protection.

  The resources of the voluntary sector are substantial and will be needed in the event of a major emergency. A requirement to engage with them is an essential part of the primary legislation. We believe that this would be welcomed by our statutory sector partners, who are well aware of the need to draw down resources from across the voluntary and community sector in the event of a major national emergency.

  As the Bill is framed and structured it does not give any clarity on how the Voluntary Aid Societies nor the voluntary sector will be included in planning, training, exercise nor response. It would be appreciated if, within both sections 2 and 5 of the draft Bill, additional wording could be inserted. This would require the person or body to consult and collaborate with and to utilise the voluntary sector.

  The Regulations and Guidance would need to amplify the protocols for organisations working with the Voluntary Aid Societies and the voluntary sector, including co-ordination.

3.  DEFINITION OF "EMERGENCY"

  We would wish to comment on the meaning of the term "emergency" in sections 1 and 17 of the draft Bill. In the present wording of these sections, with the exception of sub-section (1) in each, the "meaning" does not place sufficient emphasis on "a serious threat" or major emergency. It may be useful, in considering the meaning of "emergency", to take into account the definition of "major emergency" at paragraph 1.5 of the interim revision of the document Dealing With Disaster.

Moya Wood-Health

Assistant General Secretary

5 September 2003


 
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