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Two-day ‘Supporting Seafarers’ conference to coincide with launch of ten-year research report

Posted on: 17 October 2017

Ten years on from the publication in 2007 of ‘Supporting Seafarers and their Families: Challenges for the Future’, a new report, ‘Navigating Change – A Review of the UK Maritime Welfare Charity Sector’ is being released at a major conference in London on 16-17 October.

Despite its huge scope, from small fishing vessels to large container ships, naval vessels and superyachts, the maritime welfare sector is one of the few industries to attempt to research and define the needs of its communities in order to better allocate charitable resources.

Based on a series of studies and fresh research work commissioned by the Maritime Charities Group*, the 224-page report highlights the need for even greater co-operation and collaboration between the UK’s maritime welfare charities as they face future challenges.

Other key findings include:

·      Seafarers are still among the least visible of UK workforces and continue to face many needs unique to their occupation

·      Greater weight needs to be given to supporting Merchant Navy and Fishing Fleet seafarers, ex-seafarers and their families

·      More support will be needed in the next 10-20 years around financial issues, loneliness and isolation, dementia, limitations with daily living and longstanding illness

·      The maritime community population of potential beneficiaries (serving and former seafarers and their families) is predicted to fall to just over half (52%) its present number by 2050.

The report’s authors# reveal that during the economic recession of the past decade, ‘funds held in reserve by maritime welfare charities were not utilised to augment spending to any significant degree. With hindsight, the sector could have spent more of its reserves during this difficult period. A big question remains over whether reserves should be invested to provide a degree of self-sufficiency in long-term funding or spent to provide more services to beneficiaries now?’.

The conference will take a broad look at the overall financial sustainability of the sector aided by the insights provided by the new research.

Furthermore, the research indicates that ‘the imbalance in the sector towards relatively greater support for Royal Navy and Royal Marines beneficiaries has increased over the last decade’. The research suggests that where possible (within existing charitable objects) there could be a realignment of some resources to Merchant Navy and Fishing Fleet beneficiaries.

The new research has confirmed that for a majority of maritime welfare charities, the most pressing challenge facing them is raising awareness of the charitable cause and/or the specific charity. If left unchecked, ‘sea blindness’ – the perceived invisibility of the maritime sector and its people – will impact negatively on future fundraising, volunteering and beneficiary contact levels’.

Based on this research, knowledge of the wider third sector, Armed Forces charities and other academic work, the authors have highlighted ten top challenges facing the sector in the next 10-20 years, noting that while many maritime welfare charities are anticipating an increase in demand over the next five years, only 25% believe that the sector is in a ‘good position’ to respond.

The full research report provides some potential solutions that the wider third sector has adopted and that may be appropriate for maritime welfare charities to consider, as well as the specific suggestions outlined by the authors.

‘Navigating Change – A Review of the UK Maritime Welfare Charity Sector’ is available on request. Please contact Valerie Coleman, Maritime Charities Group Programme Development Manager, email, phone 07515 050301.

*Maritime Charities Group members, providing strategic funding, are Greenwich Hospital, ITF Seafarers Trust, Merchant Navy Welfare Board, Nautilus International, Royal Navy & Royal Marines Charity, Seafarers Hospital Society, Seafarers UK, and Trinity House.

#The main report was written by Dr Catherine Walker of The Researchery, an independent research consultancy for the voluntary sector, and Deborah Fairclough, an independent research consultant. The conference will also consider other work on the size, shape and ambitions of the future maritime charity community.

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