Memorandum from the Women's Royal Voluntary
WRVS is one of the UK's largest voluntary organisations
with over 95,000 volunteers in every part of the country. WRVS
seeks to help people maintain independence and dignity in their
homes and communities, particularly in later life.
WRVS is currently the leading voluntary sector
provider of assistance to emergency services during disasters
and other major incidents. We believe the decisions that will
be made as a result of this consultation process are vital to
us continuing to provide this level of service.
I hope you find our comments useful and would
urge you to contact me should you require clarification on any
11 September 2003
WRVS provides highly trained teams of volunteers,
supported by a professional management structure, to support the
welfare needs of the community and statutory services in times
of emergency. WRVS is a recognised leader in providing integrated
emergency management support to local authorities in rest centres
Although it is not mandatory to have plans in
place to deal with rest centres in the event of an emergency 98%
of local authorities have built WRVS into their plans.
WRVS is also contracted to commercial organisations
such as major utilities and Network Rail to provide catering,
evacuation support and reception centres during major incidents
WRVS provides tailor-made services in the event
of a disaster. These include:
Practical welfare support to victims,
families and emergency services.
Managing and staffing rest centres.
Emergency feeding and refreshments.
Staffing help lines and police casualty
Training for volunteers and clients.
Assistance with Local Authority/Police
Casualty Bureau documentation.
There are 12,000 dedicated Emergency Services
volunteers prepared and ready in the event of any threat or disaster.
They provide invaluable support to the emergency services and
to the victims of disasters. In addition, we can call on the rest
of our 95,000 volunteers nationwide to provide backup in the event
of a major incident.
All emergency service volunteers undergo training
that allows WRVS to operate and manage rest centres. WRVS is considered
an authority in this field and senior emergency service managers
deliver courses for local authority emergency planning staff.
WRVS is now an accredited training centre and our Rest Centre
management course is now accredited by the Institute of Leadership
All training is localised so that volunteers
have a greater awareness of the specific factors that affect emergency
planning in their area. Simulated emergency events are also organised
for volunteers to practice their skills regularly. Volunteers
are all trained to a national standard ensuring compliance with
legislative requirements in terms of food safety, hygiene etc.
WRVS have responded only to questions that relate
to our ability to provide support during emergencies.
Q2 Do you agree that the obligations imposed
on both Category 1 and 2 responders by or under the new framework
will ensure operationally effective and financially efficient
planning and response to emergencies at the local level? If not,
how should these obligations be increased or reduced?
WRVS believe the failure to formally recognise
the role of the voluntary sector in the Draft Bill is a missed
opportunity. We understand the difficulties government perceives
in imposing statutory duties on voluntary organisations but believe
these are not insurmountable problems. WRVS is unique in that
we have a dedicated volunteer Emergency Services corps supported
by a professional management structure nationwide. This structure
would allow us to deliver the consistent level of service government
rightly expects. Clearly, there is an important funding issue
to be resolved as a statutory duty would change our relationship
with local authorities in terms of the financial support they
provide. WRVS have the ability and the desire to play a full part
in the country's approach to dealing with emergencies and looks
forward to working with the Government to overcome some of the
obstacles to making this happen.
Q5 Do you agree that consistent arrangements
for multi-agency working should be established, through the creation
of Local Resilience Forums? If not, how else should consistency
Planning can only be truly effective if it is
done on a multi-agency basis. For this to happen, the voluntary
sector needs to be recognised at every level, including the Local
Resilience Forums. WRVS are currently represented on the London
forum and there is no logical reason why this should not happen
Q8 Do you agree that the level of funding
to support the Bill is sufficient? If not, please explain why
you believe it to be too high or too low.
WRVS currently experience difficulties with
certain local authorities that do not have the funds available
to enter into partnerships with us. This would suggest there are
already problems with funding that can only become more acute
as local authorities take on the new duties proposed in the Draft
Q10 Do you agree with the role of Regional
Nominated Co-ordinator? If not, who should take responsibility
at the regional level, and with what responsibilities?
We agree in principle with the role of Regional
Nominated Co-ordinator. We believe it is vital that the voluntary
sector can contribute to planning at every level including the
new regional level. For multi-agency responses to emergencies
to work effectively, the crucial role of the voluntary sector
has to be recognised from the earliest planning stage. WRVS is
unique amongst voluntary organisations working in this area as
we have a structure based around professional salaried managers.
Our structure means we are able to engage with the emergency planning
process effectively at every level from local to national.
Qs18 and 19 Do you agree that the arrangements
proposed for Scotland and Wales strike the right balance between
reflecting the devolution settlement and ensuring consistency
across the UK? If not, what changes are necessary?
As a national organisation, WRVS delivers emergency
services in all parts of the country including Scotland and Wales.
We are satisfied that the arrangements proposed for Scotland strike
the right balance of recognising the implications of devolution
and ensuring consistency across the UK. However the concerns we
have expressed about the UK proposals apply equally to Scotland