Charities commit to strengthening safeguarding amid allegations of sexual exploitation

Written by Lauren Weymouth

UK charities have committed to strengthening their leadership, culture and capacity around safeguarding, following a number of allegations of sexual exploitation among the sector.

The pledge was made at a summit in London, hosted by the Charity Commission and the Office for Civil Society at the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport. It followed a summit on Monday, which focussed on charities working internationally.

Charities made the pledge with regulators and other agencies, as well as independent safeguarding experts, and focused on setting out the specific safeguarding challenges facing charities working in the UK.

Attendees acknowledged the impact on public trust in charities from the recent revelations around sexual exploitation by individuals involved in international aid agencies, such as Oxfam.

They committed to working together to lead a meaningful response to safeguarding concerns facing the domestic charitable sector, and to achieve the highest standards of safeguarding.

Themes agreed for priority action were the following:

- Leadership, culture and values
- Law, regulation and the statutory framework
- Capacity and capability in charities around safeguarding
- Responsibilities and reporting, accountability and transparency

Commenting on the pledge, Charity Commission chief executive Helen Stephenson said keeping people safe must be the “top priority” for all charities.

“The public, rightly, expect all charities to be safe places for those who come into contact with them. Sadly, concerns about safeguarding in charities are not limited to international aid organisations. Charities working in the UK have their own safeguarding challenges that must be addressed,” she said.

“I am encouraged by the commitment shown today by UK charities to lead and drive improvements around safeguarding. That commitment must be followed by firm action, and we as regulator will work with and support charities in developing practical, workable changes.”

Minister for Civil Society, Tracey Crouch added: “Safeguarding must be at the heart of every charity’s culture and a central priority for its leadership. I have been clear to the sector that they must make safeguarding a key priority. It is crucial that the sector addresses this issue urgently to protect vulnerable people and rebuild the public’s trust.”

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