The charity sector must go further than “simple box-ticking” against their legal duties in order to improve safeguarding, the Charity Commission has said.
In response to a report published today by the International Development Committee about sexual abuse and exploitation in the aid sector, the regulator said charities should be judged “not just by what they do or achieve, but by how they go about it”.
The report found sexual abuse among the aid sector has been ongoing for a “long time” and the sector is guilty of being almost “complicit” in the scandal.
MPs declared abuse among aid charities as an "endemic" and “confirmed under-reporting” means the exact scale of it is “impossible to define”. It added that the cases that have come to light, such as those at Oxfam and Save the Children, are “only the tip of the iceberg”.
Commenting on these findings, Charity Commission director of investigations, monitoring and enforcement, Michelle Russell said: “The Commission is clear that sexual exploitation and abuse, and any other behaviours that put beneficiaries, staff, volunteers and members of the public at risk, have absolutely no place in charity.
“We are pleased that the report makes a number of helpful suggestions to the sector as to how these can be stamped out. We take safeguarding extremely seriously. Our role is to hold all charities, including those working in the international aid sector, to account for the way they fulfil their duties in keeping people safe," she said.
However, Russell stressed the sector must do more to ensure it complies with legal duties, rather than 'ticking-boxes'.
“We are particularly pleased to see the Committee’s focus on the responsibility of charity leaders to set an organisational culture that demonstrates zero tolerance for abuse,” she said.
“Charities should be judged not just by what they do or achieve, but by how they go about it. Our research shows that the public expect charities to demonstrate the highest standards are met through everything they do.
“In the context of safeguarding this means creating safe and trusted environments, including for victims to come forward if abuse does occur, and being transparent with us as the regulator, and the public where appropriate, when things go wrong. It is time for charities and their leadership to fully confront these issues with a real commitment to lasting and demonstrable change.
“We are pleased that the Committee recognises our crucial role in monitoring and upholding standards on safeguarding in charities, and welcome the Committee’s recommendation that the Commission should be properly resourced to meet these challenges. We will continue to work with government to ensure we are adequately resourced to meet future challenges.”
The Institute of Fundraising’s head of policy and external affairs also commented on the report, claiming the report highlights “hugely important issues for the international aid sector, as well as the need for all charities to ensure they have proper safeguarding policies and procedures in place.
“Everyone who works with, for, or comes into contact with a charity must be treated with respect and have their rights protected,” he said.
“Supporters and the public rightly have high expectations of how charities work and hold them to high standards. They care about causes, and while we never take public donations for granted, we believe that people will continue to support charities and continue to give.
“Charities need to show real and meaningful change, be transparent, and fully accountable. By being upfront, honest, and clear with supporters charities can keep support and continue to work to make the world a better place.”
You can read more details about the report here.