Oxfam “failed to tackle abuse in charity shops”

Oxfam shopweb

A Westminster committee has heard that concerns about lack of investment in safeguarding were made following misconduct complaints

19th April 2018 by Gareth Jones 0 Comments

A charity embroiled in a misconduct scandal failed to tackle sexual assault within its shops.

Helen Evans, Oxfam’s former head of safeguarding, said that she chose to resign after being refused support to tackle sexual exploitation within the organisation.

Appearing in front of the House of Commons international development select committee, Evans said she had stepped down after three reports of abuse of children in charity shops in just two months.

MPs are carrying out an inquiry into sexual misconduct within the aid sector after the revelations of Oxfam staff arranging parties with prostitutes in the aftermath of the Haiti earthquake disaster.

Evans said that she had reported three incidents to police between January and February 2015. She told the committee that the incidents – involving a physical assault by an adult worker on a teenage volunteer, an allegation of sexual assault and a claim of inappropriate sexual conduct in Oxfam shops – were also reported to the charity’s bosses.

She spoke of pleading with the charity’s leadership for further resources to deal with misconduct claims at home and abroad, and said that international charities had been in denial about abuse due to a lack of reports made by alleged victims.

“The leaders didn’t think it was a big problem,” she said. “They would say ‘Where are the reports? We’ve only had a couple of reports. Why invest significant resource in this?’”

Evans – who left the charity in 2015 - said that shop managers and volunteers should be made to undergo criminal checks, to protect young people volunteering in stores. Oxfam now carries out checks on adult store staff, but there is no legal requirement for charity shop workers to be checked.

The committee has been informed that Oxfam has tripled the amount it spends on safeguarding since the Haiti scandal.

An Oxfam spokesman said: “We are sorry that we did not act on Helen Evans’s concerns and provide more resources sooner but thanks to her work and the recommendations she made, we introduced a range of measures to improve how we deal with safeguarding issues and prevent abuse happening in the first place.”