Charities need to protect the vulnerable from predators

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Advice is being given on safeguarding after recent incidents of alleged sexual assault

11th December 2017 by Gareth Jones 0 Comments

Charities are being warned they may be targeted by those who abuse their power to take advantage of vulnerable people.

The Charity Commission is set to publish new guidance on safeguarding children and adults at risk following two recent scandals.

Last month, trustees at the Old Vic theatre were accused of turning a blind eye to alleged inappropriate behaviour by Hollywood actor and former artistic director Kevin Spacey, whilst Oxfam dismissed 22 members of staff over allegations of sexual assault.

In Scotland, the Office of the Scottish Charity Regulator (OSCR) said it was not providing any specific advice on safeguarding those at risk but trustees have a duty of protection towards staff and volunteers.

The new guidance in England and Wales recommends that charities take reasonable steps to ensure that beneficiaries do not come to harm as a result of contacting a charity.

Michelle Russell, the Charity Commission’s director of investigations, monitoring and enforcement, said all charities needed to ensure that they didn’t let people down.

“People trust charities, and when there are people coming to you in circumstances where you are the trusted and safe place, it is all the more important that you don’t let them down,” she said.

“I think what’s happened in the last couple of months has been a bit of a wake-up call perhaps to some charities that they do need to be dealing with this responsibly and if they are worried that they haven’t been dealing with it well in the past, they can take a look at that now.”

OSCR said it was considering whether more could be done to highlight the duties that charities have to protect those they work with.

A spokeswoman said: “In the development of our suite of guidance, we have prioritised guidance that is stimulated directly by the Charities and Trustee Investment (Scotland) Act 2005

“Other bodies have, generally, been better able to give fulsome guidance on the issue of safeguarding, and therefore we have not, as yet, created specific guidance on this. 

“However, it is clear from the Guidance and Good Practice for Charity Trustees that one of the trustee duties to ensure that staff, volunteers and all beneficiaries are treated appropriately and that they must make sure that the charity complies with all relevant laws.

“Within our serious incident reporting we ask charities to report issues with respect to the abuse or mistreatment of vulnerable beneficiaries.”