Improving the recruitment and retention of SAR volunteers and the quality of service.


On the 7th April 2014 the Prime Minister announced that £4m would be made available to subsidise training costs for search and rescue (SAR) volunteers in the UK, in recognition of the key role that SAR volunteers play.

The Cabinet Office, worked alongside a partnership comprised of the main UK SAR umbrella bodies plus the relevant statutory agencies and Charities Aid Foundation (CAF) to establish the processes and governance arrangements for this funding.

The funding was initially and in part, invested to build sustainability and over time will be distributed to SAR organisations. This document sets out the general principles by which funding will be distributed, and the details of the second grant funding round, including the grant application form.


The purpose of the partnership is as follows:

  • To support SAR volunteering, by subsidising the costs of training, in order to improve recruitment and retention of volunteers, and the quality of service.
  • To support SAR volunteering in the long term, by attracting funding into the sector for SAR volunteers' training.


Search and rescue operations use available personnel and facilities to locate persons in distress, potential distress or missing and recover them, providing initial medical or other needs and deliver them to a place of safety.

Search and rescue organisations should be recognised as viable SAR assets by the relevant statutory bodies (either the Police or the Coastguard).


An operational search and rescue (SAR) volunteer is a person who, of their own free will, and without expectation of profit, gives their time, effort and skill in responding to emergencies by carrying out lifesaving SAR operations, as required 24/7, as part of an organisation recognised by the statutory authorities.


UK charitable search and rescue organisations seeking support to train their volunteers – see below for the relevant definitions.

Applications will only be accepted from the partnership SAR organisations for affiliated groups. If you are affiliated to a partnership SAR body, you may wish to contact them to discuss how they can incorporate your training needs into an application to the Fund. If you are not affiliated to one of the umbrella bodies and meet the criteria for application you will be able to apply on an individual basis. The relevant SAR partnership umbrella bodies are the; Association of Lowland Search and Rescue; British Cave Rescue Council; Scottish Mountain Rescue; Mountain Rescue England and Wales; Royal Lifesaving Society UK and Royal National Lifeboat Institution.

The Fund is focused towards support for those organisations who are able to provide both search and rescue services as part of their core work; that can show their work is tasked by the relevant statutory authority; and is provided on a 24 hours a day, 7 days a week basis (where appropriate).

Applicants need to either be registered with the Charity Commission, the Office of the Scottish Charity Regulator, have a HMRC number or we will need to establish that your organisation has charitable purpose. Organisations must be working to support the search and rescue sector as defined below.


The fund can be used for the costs of training for SAR volunteers. This training must be directly related to operational SAR activities. Costs may be incurred by individuals, SAR units, or umbrella SAR bodies and may cover, but not be limited to individuals paying for courses, administration costs incurred by an organisation providing a course, the cost of hiring external trainers, travel costs and the costs of training equipment (e.g. dummies or training defibrillators).

We encourage collaborative approaches where joint training with other organisations could demonstrate increased value for money.

The Fund supports UK SAR activities. It will not support any training intended for overseas search and rescue work. We would expect as a rule any training supported by the Fund to be undertaken in the UK, unless there is an exceptional reason why this training needs to be undertaken overseas.

Different grant funding rounds may have a different strategic focus within these broader parameters of what can be funded. This will be communicated at the opening of each funding round. This current round is an open call for all training activities.

The applicant must commit and contribute at least 20% of the total training cost in the request.

The fund is seeking applications which demonstrate one or more of the following:

  • volunteer development
  • high quality training in the search and rescue sector
  • good value for money and quality of service
  • collaborative approaches – i.e. several organisations/branches can apply within one application
  • innovative, replicable approaches and community and organisational impact
  • sustainable development for SAR volunteers training
  • supporting a tasking service to deliver Search and Rescue operations.

We would expect that, prior to an application, any operational equipment or assets required to implement the training/learning are already in place. For example, if you are applying for a number of your team to gain DEFRA Flood Rescue Concept of Operations Module 3 (Water Rescue Technician) training the expectation would be that your organisation has ready access to boats, ropes and appropriate rescue equipment.

Funds are to be spent within 12 months of receiving the grant, unless there is a specific justification for a longer timeframe.


  • Non charitable organisations
  • Organisations outside the UK
  • Organisations not working in the search and rescue sector and/or not recognised as viable SAR assets
  • Applications not addressing volunteer training needs
  • Applications where the request or amount required are unrealistic
  • Applications from individuals
  • Equipment not directly related to the provision of training
  • Organisations seeking over 80% of the total training cost.


There are no lower and upper limits though expectations are for support to be from £1,000 upwards depending on need and impact. The decision making process will review value for money to ensure that funds are used effectively.


We will review each application against the published criteria and prioritise these. A sub-group of the partnership made up of statutory organisations and those outside of the application process with expert knowledge of the SAR sector will review these and confirm final decisions.


A grant offer will be made and once this is accepted by the grantee, funds will be forwarded by BACS directly to their bank account.

In the event that the grant is under spent, not used for the intended purpose, or not used within the intended time period, we reserve the right to reclaim all or part of the grant funds.

Organisations funded will be expected to complete the relevant monitoring form as a condition of receiving funding.


If an organisation is unsuccessful a formal letter will be sent with feedback.


Applications for this round of funding have now closed.

Should you have any questions about an existing application, please call +44 (0) 3000 123 334 or email us.

Please note: If you've applied to the UK Search and Rescue Fund, the latest date we'll notify you of the outcome of your application will now be Friday 16 November 2018.

This is because we've not been in a position to pull together the full decision-making panel as quickly as we'd hoped. We hope this doesn't cause you any inconvenience and look forward to contacting you again soon.