Voluntary organisations played a crucial role in the response to the Grenfell fire with some extraordinary examples of effective action, a report by Muslim Aid says.
The report, Mind the Gap: A Review of the Voluntary Sector Response to the Grenfell Tragedy, published today, says charities and local voluntary organisations, even those with no experience in disaster relief, stepped up to the challenge of meeting the needs of people affected by the fire that engulfed the Grenfell Tower in west London in June last year.
The report criticises the local government response as "flawed" and "weak", and says local voluntary groups are better placed to cater to the needs of local people because of their "rootedness" in the community.
But the report says there are areas where the sector could have been better and there are lessons that need to be learned.
"The voluntary sector, including faith-based organisations, was very much on the front line, backed by the generosity of the public and private sector and government funding," the report says.
"There were extraordinary examples of effective action in very challenging circumstances, as well as high-class professional support for people affected by the disaster."
But it says: "There is also a need to recognise that, in certain respects, the voluntary sector came up short, with some systems, structures and approaches not fit for purpose.
"British society has moved on, and institutions that have served the UK well in the past need modernising. Leadership needs refreshing and new actors need to come forward to ensure that the voluntary sector reflects today’s realities and understands and is capable of tackling today’s challenges."
Key among the report’s recommendations is a need to improve partnership working and coordination.
It says there were good examples of coordination in the Grenfell response – for example, between Muslim charities – but overall links across the sector and between the sector and government were weak and needed to be strengthened.
"Established emergency organisations have extensive experience and expertise, but they lack capacities that other entities, both local and national, may be able to offer," the report says.
"Local actors cannot do without technical, strategic and financial support, while national players benefit from local understanding, links and trust from communities."
In response to the issues around housing, mental health and livelihoods thrown up by Grenfell, the voluntary sector must "also be prepared to speak out more when confronted by injustice", the report says.
And although the London Funders group and others came together with the Charity Commission to hand out funding, the report says "lessons need to be learnt to ensure that funding for future emergencies is rapid, strategic and transparent".
David Holdsworth, deputy chief executive and registrar at the commission, introducing the report, said the sector’s response to Grenfell had been "voluntary action at its best and most immediate".
But he said there was no room for complacency on the part of charities, and the sector must deliver concrete action on the issues raised in the report.
"No one involved in the weeks and months after the disaster could help but be humbled by the dignity of the survivors of this tragedy and their determination to be heard," Holdsworth said. "We owe it to them to learn the right lessons, fast."