Aid groups “truly sorry” over sexual misconduct

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A letter signed by chief executives of 22 charities vowed to do more to protect those they were set up to help

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26th February 2018 by Graham Martin 1 Comment

Aid organisations have said they are "truly sorry" for the sector's failings in the wake of allegations of sexual misconduct.

A letter signed by chief executives of 22 charities including Save the Children UK and Oxfam GB, vowed to do more to protect those they were set up to help.

Other charities among the 22 are Unicef UK, Muslim Aid, CAFOD, Christian Aid, and WaterAid.

They promised a series of "urgent and immediate" measures, including more resources for safeguarding.

The letter, published on the Huffington Post website, said: "There can be no tolerance for the abuse of power.

"We have an absolute duty to our staff, our supporters and, above all, the people we seek to help to ensure we do everything in our power to prevent, detect and eradicate unacceptable behaviour."

The charities admitted recent revelations had caused "widespread distress and disappointment" and said the sector needed to "fundamentally" change.

"Safeguarding is something that, as a sector, we have long taken very seriously and all our organisations have systems in place to prevent all forms of abuse and misconduct.

"However, we can never be complacent. We must do even more to protect the very people we were set up to help," the letter said.

Plan International UK, a charity which signed the letter, said it had "six confirmed cases of sexual abuse and exploitation of children by staff, volunteers or partner organisations" between 1 July 2016 and 30 June 2017.

In Scotland four charities have issued statements relating to misconduct probes following the Oxfam scandal.

Dumfries-based Halo Trust revealed it has one member of staff currently suspended pending a sexual misconduct inquiry while the Scottish Catholic International Aid Fund (SCIAF) said last week it had dealt with two sexual misconduct cases.

Mercy Ships, the aid charity backed by Stagecoach co-founder Ann Gloag, and Mary’s Meals posted statements saying their organisations have had to deal with one case each involving “inappropriate relationships” in the past.

In the fall out, Brendan Cox, the husband of murdered Labour MP Jo Cox, stepped down from his role at two charities after admitting to "inappropriate" behaviour while working for Save the Children.

Meanwhile, Justin Forsyth resigned from Unicef saying he does not want coverage of his past to "damage" the charities.

The former Save the Children chief executive faced three complaints of inappropriate behaviour towards female staff before leaving charity.

Scots charities have been encouraged to post information after the Scottish Government wrote to all international development organisations warning them their funds would be at stake if it discovered any allegations of wrongdoing.

It comes on top of new information posted on the Office of the Scottish Charity Regulator’s (OSCR) website warning charities and trustees to “act in the best interests of their charity and, in particular, to act with due care and diligence,” following the Oxfam scandal. 

OSCR also issued guidance to trustees to highlight, at their next meeting, the importance of safeguarding - keeping vulnerable beneficiaries, volunteers and staff safe - and keeping records of notifiable events.

1st June 2018 by Marion Davis

In all honestly, the management teams and boards of these organizations should all resign. What a disgrace they are to the third sector.