British Red Cross 'not diverse enough' to deal with Grenfell Tower tragedy

The remains of Grenfell Tower
The remains of Grenfell Tower

The chief executive of the British Red Cross has admitted mistakes in the wake of the Grenfell Tower fire that killed at least 80, describing the relief effort as one of “our biggest ever challenges”.

Reflecting on the response, Mike Adamson said the charity had not been “diverse enough” to deal with the crisis and reach out to a community in need.

In a post, he said: “It took us too long to reach out to the real grassroots groups and that cost us in terms of trust through the process. We are still trying to address this.

“There is no escaping the fact that with shining exceptions, such as our refugee services, we are nowhere near as diverse as we need to be in our volunteer base, our staffing or our leadership.

“We cannot be ‘of’ every community, but we can be much more representative of the population as a whole.”


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Adamson said that, as CEO, he was personally leading the charity’s inclusion and diversity strategy.

In the aftermath of the tragedy, Kensington and Chelsea council was relieved of responsibility, after its response was widely condemned by survivors.

Aid work was handed over to representatives from central government, the British Red Cross, the Metropolitan police and the London fire brigade.

Prince Charles meets members of British Red Cross in the aftermath of the Grenfell Tower fire
Prince Charles meets members of British Red Cross in the aftermath of the Grenfell Tower fire

Adamson, who became chief executive in October 2014, said: “For the Red Cross, the response [to Grenfell] has been one of our biggest ever challenges.”

“Operationally, one of the biggest challenges was matching volunteers’ skills and capacity with the scale and depth of trauma being experienced by people in the community and leadership on the ground.”

He admitted that “more effort was put into managing donated goods rather than getting cash into the hands of people fast, as we would do in our international programming.

“There is a real lesson here about how we engage with a community that we do not know. We need to add people with different skills to our response and recovery teams.

“We also need to explore the extent to which our scale and brand give us convening power to help bring organisations together and respond dynamically to need.”

Yesterday, it was revealed that police are investigating reports that money was stolen from one of the abandoned flats in Grenfell Tower.

Police believe the theft took place at some point after June 20, just days after the blaze.

The Labour MP David Lammy called the theft “a disgrace and an outrage”.

“Where were the police? We are seeing a litany of failures for the victims. Grenfell Tower is a crime scene, so this raises serious questions for the Metropolitan police about the security of this crime scene and integrity of the ongoing investigation at Grenfell,” he said.