18 months after scathing report, major charity admits to ‘slow progress’ on anti-racism

The organisation says significant turnover of trustees and senior managers is to blame

(Photograph: Pixlr)

A major aid charity has admitted making “slow progress” towards becoming an anti-racist organisation – 18 months after its leaders apologised over a scathing independent race audit.

The audit highlighted historical structural racism at ActionAid UK, with black and ethnic minority employees feeling “less valued, less supported, less empowered” than their white colleagues.

Eighteen months on, the charity’s annual report and accounts gives an update on its work to resolve the issues.

It also reveals rapid turnover at the top, with six trustees having left and six appointed in the past 10 months – including a new chair, vice-chair and treasurer.

It says: “ActionAid’s progress towards being an anti-racist organisation has been slow. This creates a risk of harm to staff, increased staff turnover, reputational damage and damage to the relationship between the UK board, leadership and management.”

The report adds: “ActionAid is rebuilding trust between the UK board, leadership team and staff.

“Unfortunately, the development and implementation of an organisational equality, diversity and inclusion programme and an anti-discrimination programme was delayed from 2022 to 2023.

“The delay was caused by significant turnover in ActionAid’s board and senior management team.”

The report says there has been “good progress during the first half of 2023, including launching a decolonisation learning series, mandatory for all staff, recruitment of roles to begin formation of a dedicated anti-racism and decolonisation hub and development of anti-racist storytelling curriculum including guidance to be applied in all ActionAid communications”.

Interim chief executive John Good is due to stand aside this month, when the current Runnymede Trust chief executive Halima Begum will take up the chief executive role at ActionAid UK.

She is the permanent successor to Frances Longley, who left AAUK in 2022 after a year in charge.

Longley said at the time that the charity needed a leader with “different skills” for the future.

Action Aid UK’s 2022 accounts show income of £59.6m, which is up by 20.3 per cent from £49.6m in 2021.

Much of the growth is down to money received from the Disasters Emergency Committee – £11.5m for Ukraine relief work and £1.1m for Afghanistan.

Expenditure rose from £47.6m to £58.1m, largely for the same reason, the report says.

The report flagged up individual giving as an area of concern 

It said: “We continue to be immensely thankful for the growing commitment and loyalty of our financial supporters, especially with the current cost-of-living crisis and rising prices.

“However, the impact of the crisis saw income from committed giving, donations, appeals and legacies fall from £39.4m in 2021 to £37.6m in 2022.

“Committed giving income fell from £27.9m to £27.3m.

“While we still achieved net gains in regular giving supporters, the drop in our child sponsorship supporters was larger than we had seen since before the Covid-19 pandemic.”

Restricted reserves are up from £6.3m to £9.1m, largely due to DEC money which will be spent in the coming 18 months, while general reserves are down from £9.3m to £7.81m.

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