CAVRA – the so-called “Civil Aid Voluntary Rescue Association” – wants to be seen as one of the official “blue-light” emergency services – but critics say the charity is just  not up to the job

The self-styled Sully-based rescue charity “CAVRA” – which has received thousands of pounds of tax-payer-funded grants –  is taking complaints about “rival” rescue services –  the Royal National Lifeboat Institution and the South Wales Fire and Rescue Service to the Ombudsman.

In its annual report to the Charity Commission,  CAVRA [the “Civil Aid Voluntary Rescue Association”]  says : –

The sea-going CAVRA rigid inflatable boat is not dissimilar to a proper RNLI lifeboat – but doesn’t have crews trained to anything like the same standard.

“We continue to struggle against the obstructive attitude and lack of support from a number of other organisations, – namely Mountain Rescue, RNLI,[ the Royal National Lifeboat Institution]  SWFRS [ South Wales Fire and Rescue Service] and MCA [Maritime Coastguard Agency] . A case has been filed with the Public Services Ombudsman regarding the actions of certain members of the RNLI, SWFRS. Developments are awaited” .

The  spokesperson for the RNLI has told PDN  “The RNLI regularly works with a number of partners on emergency calls, but we are tasked only by the MCA. From Penarth’s RNLI point of view, we’ve received no complaints from CAVRA.”

Although CAVRA’s  members are said not to be trained to anything like the professional levels of the RNLI and the Fire Service, the CAVRA “charity” continues to rake in cash – much of it from taxpayers.

UK taxpayers stumped up almost £40,000 which the UK Government’s Department of Transport handed over to CAVRA to buy new “flood-rescue” boat and associated kit. Now CAVRA’s accounts have been “qualified”

CAVRA says “a number of funding bids”  have been successful and it is to receive funds from:-

  • Newport Flood Relief Fund
  • A Department for Transport Grant [ In the previous year – 2015/16 – the charity was given £36,430 of taxpayers’ money by the Department for Transport to buy a “Pioneer 3 Multi Flood Rescue Boat”]
  • UKSAR Training Fund
  • The National Lottery

These donors may not be aware that the Charity Commission has however “qualified”  the CAVRA accounts for the 2016-17 year  [ “Qualified”  means that the auditor or examiner who has examined these accounts has some reservations about the declared figures or their accuracy] .

In its annual report to the Charity Commission, CAVRA makes claims that it has provided 11,300 hours of voluntary work” during the last year – an assertion which would suggest it has, during the year, deployed at least 6 people working for 8 hours a day for 230 working days.

CAVRA also claims that in the last year it has “rescued” a total of 7 persons. The details the dates and the locations of these “rescues” are not revealed and therefore cannot be checked.  It also asserts that it has “assisted” a  further 17 people and “helped” 3 others – but again no information is given to enable these claims to be verified.



About NewsNet

Penarth Daily News email address . Penarth Daily News is an independent free on-line fair and balanced news service published by NewsNet Ltd covering the town of Penarth in the Vale of Glamorgan, Wales, UK. All our news items are based on the information we receive or discover at the time of publication and are published on the basis that they are accurate to the best of our knowledge and belief at that time. Comments posted on the site by commentators reflect their opinions and are not necessarily shared, endorsed or supported by Penarth Daily News.
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  1. Concerned Citizen says:

    There is a proper protocol to be accepted as part of the Search and Rescue services. You must also be assessed annually to ensure you meet the required professional standards. This is known as ‘Declared Facility Status’ and without it, MCA will not work with you. As far as I know CAVRA have never put themselves forward for assessment. Apart from the SAR services mentioned the only other voluntary accredited service in South Wales is NCI (National Coast watch Institution) who keep a visual watch on the sea for people or vessels in trouble and have stations at Nell’s Point, Barry, Porthcawl and Worms Head, Rhossili.

  2. Cynical Jock! says:

    If CAVRA are anxious to be involved they should set up their H.Q. in the Captains Wife or the Seaside Grill and they would be kept very busy rescuing stranded individuals from Sully Island!! They could then “Whizz about” in their boat to their hearts content and at the same justify the money coming their way!!

    • Ben Salter says:

      Yes a dedicated Sully Island “taxi” especially in the summer months, would free up the RNLI for more serious tasks and save them precious voluntarily donated funds.

    • elizabeth roberts says:

      I second that suggestion!

  3. AK says:

    Public Services Ombudsman? The RNLI will soon remind him (or her) that they are a charity, not a public service!

    Funded entirely by charitable donations and crewed by volunteers.

    Perhaps CAVRA would be better channeling their enthusiasm into volnteering as lifeboat crew or coastguards?

  4. If CAVRA have made a complaint to the Public Services Ombudsman then this is more likely to involve Cardiff Harbour Authority which is a public service funded by both the Welsh Government and Cardiff County.

    The previous articles about CAVRA on PDN suggest a number of strong grounds for complaint.

    The RNLI manage to work with other voluntary organisations elsewhere in the country and I’m intrigued to understand why they are unable to work with CAVRA.

    I’m withholding any further personal donations to the RNLI until this matter is resolved to my satisfaction.

    • Vic T says:

      “I’m withholding any further personal donations to the RNLI until this matter is resolved to my satisfaction.” Each to their own, but clearly you’re a generous person who donates money to help save others, so wouldn’t it be better to continue paying until the reasons CAVRA not being included has been published?

  5. Big Davey says:

    Appears that CAVRA are publicly funded ‘boy scouts’. I can see why the professional rescue services won’t play with this bunch.

    More attention should be paid to them if they are getting public monies. Are we not just funding their expensive toys.

    As they are based in Sully and have a boat, why not let them be first call out for Sully Island rescues. They would soon get bored of that.

  6. Lone Ranger says:

    They are extensively funded, some £300,000+ since inception and are yet to provide public service to that figure.
    Whilst there are some very willing members, they lack the structure, governance and audit required to be successful. They have a very clear management structure – 1 man band.
    There is very clearly too much personal emotion involved and what would appear, no professional mannerisms toward fellow rescue services or the willing to want and work alongside other established organisations.
    Are CAVRA not appearing to make themselves ‘were the only ones that should be used’. As a DEFRA asset, they are available for flood relief and not SAR.
    If you look at their volunteer turnover, that would say all it needs to on this matter. As well as the volunteers it has being of questionable qualification and state.

  7. James says:

    I’ve heard through the grapevine that most of CAVRA’s rescues and assists have been at paid events, and that their Landrover is now registered as an Ambulance.

  8. Nicola says:

    WOW!! That is a lot of money that could have been passed to the professionals, SWSRS, RNLI, MCA and MREW who already fully trained and do a great job. Yes, why don’t hey just join the professionals and stop wasting tax payers money! Other charities are fighting for funding with real existing rescues being undertaken regularly. So it asks the question – How did they get the funding over the other charities!!

  9. Andy Thomas says:

    With so many organisations not working with them it must raise the question of their training standards or abilities, are they trained and competent to carry out what the aims of the charity they claim to be able to do? It does raise questions……


    Come on Trustee’s be open and transparent!
    Why won’t they work with you?
    What incidents have you responded to?
    Why haven’t you uploaded your accounts onto the charity site with the trustee report?

  10. kyle jones says:

    I cant belive what im reading.

    Perhaps looking at there facebook page and actually speaking to C.a.v.r.a would be a good start before posting old information on news blogs im sure if u contacted them they would be happy to provide upto date (2017) information and actual pictures from this year.

    To be a defra b team they have to be highly qualified swift water rescue technicians and above. They all have to do the same training to standards set by defra. Also i guess they would have to keep practicing that training so they can be competent at what they are doing as they are assesed by defra yearly.

    Also looking at there facebook page they have been involved in sar recently and have been tasked by gwent police.

    In my opinion perhaps contacting them and actually getting the facts correct before trying to slander a group of volunteers would be a good idea.

    • NewsNet says:

      This PDN item covered the latest annual report issued by CAVRA itself as published on the Charity Commission website. It is in that published annual report that CAVRA publicly complains about what it calls “the obstructive attitudes and lack of support from a number of organisations” – and in which it goes on to name “Mountain Rescue, RNLI, South Wales Fire and Rescue Service and the Coastguard Agency”. CAVRA also publicly states that “A case has been filed with the Public Services Ombudsman regarding the action of certain members of the RNLI and South Wales Fire and Rescue Service” .
      Meanwhile the Charity Commission also added the rider that the most recent annual accounts of CAVRA – which it submitted to the Commission – have been “qualified” by the auditors. (In other words the accountants or auditors have expressed reservations about them). Those accounts have still not been published. The facts as published are correct.

    • Lone Ranger says:

      DEFRA B team status requires various numbers of qualified people at different levels such as SRT, RBO etc. CAVRA don’t have these and don’t meet the requirements set out by DEFRA for other items such as wash and shower facilities at their ‘base’ which is nothing more than a storage unit.
      Also, there is no annual inspection, it is self styled assessment. They don’t perform internal competency audits or internal inspections, it’s always a ‘wing-it – that’ll do’ attitude. Their facebook page just shows them on lots of jolly’s throughout the year and doesn’t pain them in the best of lights in this situation.

      They may have been involved in a search recently but that was at the request of the family and even after that (the first tasking in years) they immediately set up a just giving page to raise £500, claiming that they need to recover costs of the search.

      For a charity funded so well, how can it not sustain itself after just 1 land search for a few days?!

      When contacted they are hostile and argumentative, the fact that they are too focussed on ‘tell the teacher’ behaviour speaks volumes. They could be pro-active in many ways, yet they aren’t.

      The team they have is very inexperienced, many of which have been seen to throw tantrums in public over very little, speak to each other disgustingly and show no respect for each other or the public – would you want a vulnerable person to be in contact with that type of behaviour?

  11. Anon says:

    Lone ranger (brady ) i guess u have some sort of vendetta against cavra as u are an ex member but unless u know the facts u shouldnt comment. They are qualified and they do have a good team and stop trying to cause trouble when u dont know facts. Keyboard worrior comes to mind.

  12. Lone Ranger says:

    Facts are freely available and well publicised. Their own team can’t form requirements for the B team status they claim. No one is trying to cause trouble other, news has been reported and discussed.

    The point was that Cavra spend more time arguing with other agencies than working alongside them for the safety and protection of the public.

    • Anon says:

      Well the fact is they are working with and along side other public services and your facts are outdated they are qualified as a defra b team and have lots of new trustworthy and qualified memebers and i would sack ur spy as they are not giving u the correct facts

      • Lone Ranger says:

        That is contradictory to the fact that the chairmans report itself states they have submitted a complaint to the Public Services Ombudsman because other organisations won’t work with them!
        They are listed as a B team, no inspections have taken place to prove they meet the requirements set out in the Concept of Operations.
        There is no spy, certainly not for me. There is a very strong lack of information and transparency from the charity, perhaps if it was more transparent in its operations, the public would have a better perception.

      • Once a Former Member says:

        Please could you state who the so Called CAVRA are actually working with then? How many live taskings from emergency services have they had this year?

  13. Dave says:

    As a former member not long left the organisation I’d like mention a few things

    The Founder is more interested in spending money on a radio communications network than spending it on maintenance.

    He also uses the Landrover (registered Ambulance so no road licence fee) as his personal car, while putting the fuel cost through the organisation.

    The Landrover was once used for a blue light run (unauthorised by emergency services) from Newport to Sully so that it could be used to deliver sandbags.

    The only “rescues” or “assists” that happened during my time in the organisation were at paid events.

    The organisation got removed from HMCG channel zero emergency radio channel.

  14. Ghengis says:

    Question is why they feel they are needed, our coastlines and estuaries are covered by SWFRS who are funded by the us tax payer and the RNLI a charity who are experts in this field , these agencies won’t and cannot work with others who have no accredited trading , they may be qualified and skilled individuals but in the same way the fire service wouldn’t let someone in a red van with a hosepipe into biting building, all the official emergency service work and train together, know each other’s skills and limitations, that’s safe working practice, how do these individuals get the emergency call in the first place ???

  15. Anon says:

    Personally, I feel that Cavra’s reluctance to provide any firm details as to rescues they alleged to have carried out is hard to fathom and makes for uncomfortable reading. Surely if they were to provide such details it would foster public support for them that could perhaps see them being utlizied more often – of course assuming they compiled to the standards expected of our volunteer rescues services such a service the RNLi and Mountain Rescue and the statuaory Emergency Services.

    If they don’t comply to those standards then the real issue is here is how they have had any tax payers money at all and secured such large amounts of funding?

    For if they don’t comply to the required standards then they are not fit for purpose to fulfil their charitable aims; something that the charity commission would, and should, take an interest in.

    Surely money awarded by such organisations such as the National Lottery has to be accounted for and it use to achieve measurable aims be available to stand up to scrutiny? Cavra can you do that please?

  16. Left Foot says:

    At the end of the day, no agency will benefit from working with CAVRA. and truthfully, it is members of CAVRA that outright refuse to talk to members of other agencies, never mind work together. Other than good old Raynet of course, but then sharing members is always an advantage.

    This report the ombudsman appears to be a tattle tale action of a child. In fact, this is a rather short-sighted action. It may bring to light disagreements or unwillingness between agencies, but mostly just shines the bad light on CAVRA; along with shining on the light on all their bad practices.

    CAVRA members are qualified for swift water rescue in floods, no member of the team is qualified for sea rescue. It appears one their biggest hang ups is because they do not receive calls to Sully Island. Well, when some members have never been on a boat further than pottering around just off the launching area at Cardiff bay, it’s no surprise. They have no experience in coxxing on the sea, never mind a rescue. Let’s not even start on their boat locations, lack of tow vehicles and personnel, slow response times, half the team unable to get out of work or transport themselves in a timely manner….

    CAVRA go above and beyond to slate and criticise every other group, charity and organisation going, when their own simply a shambles. If only the public, their benefactors and those approving grants knew.
    So low on team members, the newest are pushed through at the soonest slot at CWII. No one has medical qualifications past out of date training from St Johns. Not that they can provide medical aid with their severely lacking and out-of-date equipment.

    I would not be surprised if agencies did not want to work with this team. They are rude, disgusting and disrespectful to each other and the public. Manners are lacking and bullying is commonplace. A few team members openly discuss their criminal activity and are incorrectly and illegally fitting sirens and blue lights to their personal vehicles. It’s not like members are subjected to a DBS check so the previously mentioned behaviour of members is unsurprising.

    I for one am extraordinarily interested as to whether they manage to keep their B Team status at the inspection next year. I do not hold out hope for them, but wish them the best of luck to make up their number, skills and requirements. Perhaps spending their funding correctly would aid this, because who needs training and equipment when you could buy even more radios!

  17. RoadCraft’s Finest says:

    Which statutory emergency service control room tasks them to respond on Blue Lights? Who has provided their Blue Light Response driver training? It’s an interesting area of law. Certain requirements must be met to call a vehicle an Ambulance, and claim road fund license exemption. A completely different set of requirements must be met to actually use Blue Lights and sirens. Self deployment is not generally allowed, especially if not on behalf of the core Blue Light Family. South Wales Police Roads Policing may take an interest if the legal requirements aren’t being met.

  18. jeff Davies says:

    CAVRA need to remember that respect from other organisations is
    earned and from what I personally have seen of them over the
    past few years, I just hope they never get recognition, PersonallyI hope that the action they are taking rebounds and they are made to hand over the kit that they have
    to professional volunteer groups.
    Applying for and getting grants for big pieces of equipment does not mean they are fit to operate.

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