Joint Committee on Draft Civil Contingencies Bill Minutes of Evidence

Memorandum from St John Ambulance

  As a voluntary organisation with 116 years of providing community service, St John Ambulance is the leading First Aid, Transport and Care Charity. As one of the three Voluntary Aid Societies, St John has an equally long history of providing support during times of emergency, both in peace and at war.

  St John Ambulance welcomes the Civil Contingencies Bill, as it will provide an effective statutory framework for emergency responses, with clear reporting lines and accountabilities.

  We would particularly wish to emphasise our agreement that voluntary organisations such as St John Ambulance should not be covered by the new Duty, with the statutory obligations conferred on Category 1 or 2 Responders (as detailed in Chapter 3 of the Consultation Document).

  St John Ambulance would welcome the opportunity to give oral evidence on our submission to the Joint Parliamentary Committee, if the Committee wishes to hear directly from any of the Voluntary Aid Societies.

  The submission covers:

    1.  St John Ambulance Legal Status.

    2.  Comment on Statutory Obligation.

    3.  Other Voluntary Aid Society Submissions.

    4.  St John Ambulance Emergency Planning Activity.

    5.  NVASEC Submission.

    6.  Regulations and Guidance.

    7.  Specific Answers to Consultative Questions.

    8.  Supporting information on St John Ambulance in relation to Emergency Planning.

Roger Holmes

Chief Executive

Peter Brown BEM

Chief Commander

11 September 2003


  Statute 4.f.5 of the Statutes of the Most Venerable Order of the Hospital of St John of Jerusalem (which incorporates St John Ambulance) makes reference to our role as a Voluntary Aid Society in:

    "The provision of trained personnel to give assistance to Central or Local Government Departments or to the Armed Forces at times of emergency in peace or in war"

    —  St John Ambulance considers that it will be able to carry out this part of its charitable mission without having (or indeed needing) due statutory responsibility (ie as a Category 1 or 2 Responder).


  We strongly agree with the statement in the Consultation Document that voluntary organisations are not included in the Duty:

    "Because voluntary organisations rely on the goodwill of their members and supporters to provide the services that they do, and because those services are not in themselves based on statutory obligations. As a consequence, the skills and expertise available to the Voluntary sector may vary from place to place". (Para 13, Ch 3)

    —  Even with over 23,000 adult volunteers trained in First Aid and 1,300 vehicles (including the largest single ambulance fleet in the country), St John Ambulance is unable to guarantee a particular level of provision of emergency aid in all of the 42 counties where we have offices and management structures. The type of response we can provide and the amount of support we can offer varies on a geographical basis.

    —  Some of our volunteers (including 1,500 Doctors, Nurses and Paramedics) are unavailable to St John Ambulance in times of emergency, as they will be required to respond by their full-time employers (or other statutory responsibilities—eg Territorial Army).

    —  Whilst the roles and activities undertaken by St John Ambulance will (at the very least) support and complement activity of Category 1 or 2 Responder members, we agree that because we are unable to guarantee a consistent standard and level of support nationwide, it would be irresponsible to seek inclusion as a Category 1 or 2 Responder.


  We are aware that another Voluntary Aid Society is making its submission to become a Category 1 Responder. St John Ambulance believes strongly that it would be inappropriate to single out any Voluntary Aid Society in this way because:

    —  For the reasons stated in the Consultation Document and in section 2 of this submission, no voluntary organisation can guarantee a particular level of response in an emergency nationwide.

    —  St John Ambulance believes that it has the largest number of appropriately qualified people and the largest number of emergency vehicles compared with other voluntary organisations. If we cannot see our way to fulfil the obligations of a Category 1 or 2 Responder, we do not understand how any other voluntary organisation could do so.

    —  Our volunteers would be more responsive to direction from the statutory services than from any other voluntary organisation in an emergency. Raising another such organisation to Category 1 status could result in a diminution of interest in emergency support within St John Ambulance, especially as there are many other charitable demands upon our resources. This could have an impact on the overall national response to future emergencies.


  We fully recognise the Consultation Document's assertion that:

    "the Government continues to place a high value on the role the voluntary sector plays in response to emergencies, and will continue to encourage their involvement in local multi-agency planning and response through the guidance that will underpin the new legislation". (Para 13, Ch 3)

  St John Ambulance will continue to be active in emergency planning at all levels:

    —  Maintaining a well established internal St John Ambulance administration for Emergency Planning, on a national, regional and local basis, including 42 Emergency Planning Officers working out of respective English county headquarters, supported by salaried staff. St John Ambulance in Wales is a separately constituted charitable organisation. Nevertheless, it is active in emergency planning and would seek to operate as described in the points below (please see also 8. Supporting Information)

    —  Active representation at local level, working with the relevant multi-agency forums that will be established, to confirm the level and capabilities of support that St John Ambulance can provide during an emergency.

    —  Adequate representation at the proposed new regional civil protection tier (as per Chapter 4 of the Consultation Document).

    —  Continuing to work with other voluntary emergency organisations such as the British Red Cross Society, WRVS, Salvation Army, in providing relevant support to statutory services, both at the front end of any emergency response, as well as in the appropriate provision of humanitarian and support services.


  Together with the other Voluntary Aid Societies (the British Red Cross Society and St Andrew's Ambulance Assocation), a joint NVASEC [National Voluntary Aid Society Emergency Committee] submission to the Bill is being made. St John Ambulance confirms that it agrees totally with the three substantive comments made on the Bill by NVASEC:

    —  Humanitarian support—Specific mention should be made of humanitarian needs that might arise from an emergency—voluntary organisations have a vital role to play in this.

    —  Role of the voluntary sector—Specific mention should be made within the Bill of how the voluntary sector should be consulted and involved during all stages of the planning process. Relevant organisers should consider what voluntary organisations might be able to contribute.

    —  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 emergency.


    —  St John Ambulance would wish to have an active input into the supporting Regulation and Guidance Documents that accompany the Bill, particularly any sections covering the role of voluntary organisations including our involvement at regional and local levels.

    —  We would also welcome instruction to employers to provide suitable leave for volunteers who may be required in an emergency or appropriate training purposes.


  As a voluntary organisation, St John Ambulance does not feel it relevant to answer many of the Consultation Questions. Our submission relates to:

Q8.   Do you feel 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.

    —  Anecdotal feedback from local statutory bodies is that funding provision as currently available under the Civil Defence Grant (currently £19 million) will be insufficient to carry out the extra statutory obligations placed upon them by the Bill.

    —  St John Ambulance is concerned that Category 1 Responders will increasingly seek to rely on voluntary organisations at the local level. Funding provision should recognise that voluntary organisations incur costs when involved in emergency planning (as well as in actual emergencies) eg in providing vehicles and volunteers for exercises to test emergency procedures.


  Resources listed below relate to St John Ambulance activity in England only. St John Ambulance Wales is a separately constituted charitable Priory, and its resources have been listed separately below. It is also relevant to point out that St John Ambulance is active in Northern Ireland, Isle of Man and the Channel Islands.

 (A)   St John Ambulance England—Statistical information

    —  42 county headquarters, each with its own administrative and command structure (covering the whole of England on a geographical basis). Over 680 properties.

    —  Ability to co-ordinate St John Ambulance emergency response on a national (eg through recent RAMP activity) or on appropriate regional basis.

    —  Each St John Ambulance county headquarters has a dedicated Emergency Planning Officer, with clear roles and responsibilities, responsible for appropriate liaison and working with all relevant statutory authorities.


    —  2,000 Salaried Staff.

    —  23,000 adult volunteers trained in First Aid.

    —  1,500 Health Care Professionals (including Doctors, Nurses and Paramedics).

    —  75 volunteers trained in Critical Incident Counselling.

    —  Around 10 specialist trained Casualty Retrieval Teams, that can be placed around the country at short notice.


    —  1,050 dedicated Ambulances with trained volunteer (and 100 salaried) crews.

    —  150 Minibuses.

    —  100 Cars or People Carriers.

    —  1,000 Automated External Defibrillators and 5,000 trained operators.

Types of Emergency activity undertaken:

    —  Train accidents—eg Paddington and Hatfield.

    —  Evacuation.

    —  Humanitarian Aid.

    —  Flood Relief.

    —  Civil emergencies.

    —  On going or ad hoc events where command and control systems, such as those needed in Major Incidents, have been used, illustrate the large-scale activity that St John Ambulance can undertake:

      —  First Aid provision at major sporting events, eg London Marathon, Wimbledon.

      —  Civil events, eg Millennium Celebration, The Queen's Jubilee, The Funeral of HM Queen Elizabeth the Queen Mother.

 (B)   St John Ambulance Wales—Statistical Information

    —  National Headquarters based in Cardiff administrating the Charity within the Principality.

    —  Volunteer structure divided into seven regions all of whom actively participate in the Welsh Assembly Government Emergency Planning system again on a regional basis.

    —  Ability to coordinate St John Ambulance emergency response on a national or indeed on an appropriate regional basis.


    —  34 Salaried Staff.

    —  1,942 adult volunteers trained in First Aid.

    —  150 Health Care Professionals (including Doctors, Nurses and Paramedics).

    —  41 volunteers trained in Critical Incident Counselling.


    —  80 dedicated Ambulances with trained crews.

    —  9 Minibuses.

    —  3 Cars or People Carriers.

    —  5 inshore rescue boats.

    —  60 Automated External Defibrillators and 350 trained operators.

Types of Emergency activity undertaken:

    —  Evacuation.

    —  Flood Relief.

    —  Civil emergencies.

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