St John Ambulance Jersey close to folding, chief warns

ONE of Jersey’s oldest charities – St John Ambulance – could go out of business within two years, its chief executive has warned, as he issued an urgent appeal for support from Islanders.

Barry Marsden, Chief Executive, St John Ambulance Jersey. Picture: JON GUEGAN. (26165438)
Barry Marsden, Chief Executive, St John Ambulance Jersey. Picture: JON GUEGAN. (26165438)

Barry Marsden, who has been chief executive since 2016, said that unless the charity secured a new sponsor and enough donations to cover their operational costs, their more than 130-year service to the Island could end.

If they did cease to exist, major public events such as the Weekender Festival and the Battle of Flowers would probably have to pay for medical cover or risk paying much higher insurance costs, Mr Marsden said.

The charity receives no States funding and Mr Marsden said that they currently had £300,000 left in the bank. In 2012 their bank balance was close to £1.2 million. It cost the charity £595,020 to run last year but they made a loss of £46,142.

Last year, St John Ambulance members performed a total of 5,129 hours of voluntary duty at public events. The charity typically attends anything from 200 to 250 such events each year, said Mr Marsden.

He added that a major issue facing the charity was the ‘myriad of privately owned first-aid companies springing up and undercutting the price of the first-aid courses’ which is the charity’s primary income stream.

Additionally, as the charity has always sought donations instead of charging for its services, losses were increasing as donations steadily decline.

‘There are more than 300 charities on the Island all competing for the same pot of money and while we know we are competing with equally worthy charities, it means we are now making losses each year,’ Mr Marsden said.

‘We are proud that every year we train around 5% of the population of the Island in some form of first aid.

‘Yes, our courses may be slightly more expensive and longer too, but we believe that first aid is so important it shouldn’t be a race to the bottom for the cheapest price or the shortest course.’

He explained that once corporate health and safety provision became mandatory, companies contacted the charity for training, which initially started as volunteers delivering donation-based training.

‘After a while we began charging for the service but in the last five years, private companies have come into the market and their pitch is “We can provide the same training faster and cheaper than St John Ambulance” and we are struggling to compete due to our overheads and all the other services that we provide.’

Additionally, the charity made the decision in 2012 to break away from the rest of the UK, as did Guernsey and the Isle of Man, making them responsible for their own finances.

However, St John Ambulance UK can provide service support to a jurisdiction if needed.

‘The reality is that ever since they did that, they have lost money, as the charity can’t afford to run in the way that it is currently structured,’ said Mr Marsden.

‘Realistically, we need to secure another sponsor to fund the training courses we run,’ he said.

For more information on how to donate or inquire about becoming a sponsor please call 735611.

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