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Wednesday, 04 July 2018

Over a 1000 safeguarding complaints to charity watchdog since Oxfam sex scandal

Written by Shaun Connolly and David Wilcock

Around 1,100 complaints about safeguarding in aid agencies have been made since the Oxfam sex scandal in February, the head of the Charity Commission has said.

Chief executive Helen Stephenson said the number of reports made in the last four months was around the same as it received in the whole of 2016/2017.

She made the disclosure as the commission's top team faced questions from the Commons' International Development Committee on Tuesday.

Oxfam was plunged into crisis in February after it emerged some of its workers in Haiti engaged in "sex parties" with prostitutes in the aftermath of the devastating 2010 earthquake.

The scandal rippled out to other aid organisations, including Save The Children.

Mrs Stephenson told the committee: "We have received about 1,100 reports of serious incidents with regards to safeguarding since February.

"To put that into context, that is about the same number of serious reports that we received in the year 2016/17.

"The number of reported serious incidents have gone up. They have levelled off but they have stayed at that level for the last four months."

The body defines safeguarding as the duty of trustees to ensure staff, beneficiaries and anyone who comes into contact with the charity are protected from harm such as emotional abuse, radicalisation and exploitation.

The commission previously revealed in April that it had opened 440 new cases after receiving 523 fresh reports in February and March.

Some of those new cases involved "potentially criminal" allegations, which the regulator said at the time it was checking had been passed on to police.

International Development Secretary Penny Mordaunt told the committee that it was a "hard judgment" to make as to whether predators were more attracted to work in aid than other sectors.

Ms Mordaunt told MPs: "I understand that because of the action that we have taken in the sector, the strong message that we are sending, but also the practical things that we are doing, and the effect that we are having, whether it's in agencies or organisations, that predatory individuals have moved out of the sector.

"The message from us is that we have made good strides, we will make further, and other donors are coming with us. So, if you are a predatory individual and you have been targeting the aid sector, your time to move on is now."

Copyright (c) Press Association Ltd. 2018, All Rights Reserved. Picture (c) Nick Ansell / PA Wire.