A UK charity that raises funds for a disadvantaged children’s charity in India has been criticised by the Charity Commission for its poor handling of an allegation of child abuse.
According to a commission inquiry report published today, the regulator became involved when the Grail Trust, which provides financial support and advice to the Grail Trust India, failed to report the allegation and initially publicly rejected the claims.
The report says the regulator found out in August 2011 about a previous allegation of child abuse involving someone connected to the charity at a children’s home in India, which was run by Grail Trust India.
The children’s home in question has since been closed. The report says the allegation is still under investigation overseas.
It says that, after an initial investigation, the commission decided to open a statutory inquiry in December 2011 to examine the trustees’ handling of the allegation and whether adequate safeguarding policies and procedures were in place.
According to the report, the trustees said they did not report the allegations to the commission because "they were not aware of any formal charges and the allegation appeared, in their view, to be malicious and unsubstantiated".
The trustees also said they did not report the allegation to the UK police because they thought the police were already aware of the matter, the report says.
Because of the failure to report the allegation, the commission found that the trustees’ initial handling and response was inadequate.
The charity also publicly rejected the allegation when it attracted press attention, which the commission said was not impartial "and was therefore inappropriate and risked damaging the charity’s reputation".
The report says the charity told the commission that because it did not have any UK beneficiaries it was up to the Indian charity’s trustees and staff to comply with Indian state guidelines and safeguards.
The commission accepted that the Indian charity had a safeguarding responsibility, but its report says the clear links between the UK and Indian charities meant the trustees had a responsibility to ensure it complied with safeguarding expectations.
The report says the charity therefore failed to take adequate steps to ensure the safeguarding measures employed by the Indian charity were suitable, which the report says was because "the UK trustees lacked knowledge in relation to their own and others’ safeguarding obligations".
The trustees also failed to recognise that their safeguarding obligations also applied to visitors to the Indian charity, the report says.
In the report the commission says it is therefore monitoring compliance with an action plan, and says it is "satisfied that the current trustees are now better aware of their safeguarding obligations and the need to protect the charity’s beneficiaries and its reputation".
A statement from the trustees of the Grail Trust said they accepted the commission had formed a judgment of mismanagement and misconduct "particularly in regard to safeguarding issues and an allegation against our former director, an allegation still unresolved in the Indian law courts".
The statement said: "We are very sorry indeed, on behalf of the charity that we seek to serve, the welfare of children in Tamil Nadu, that these criticisms have been made of us.
"We have adopted an action plan, a risk-management strategy and new safeguarding policies, also in cooperation with our Indian partner charity, Grail Trust India, and with the Charity Commission."