Acevo urges discussion on how to better support bullying and harassment complaints

The charity leaders body Acevo has called for a discussion on the support charities might need to deal with complaints by staff in the wake of the Charity Commission’s report on Save the Children UK.

The membership body made the comments in response to the regulator’s report, which uncovered “serious failings” in the way Save had handled allegations of sexual harassment against senior staff.

The report, published yesterday, was critical of “serious weaknesses in the charity’s workplace culture” and warned that the issues found were “unlikely to be isolated to this charity”.

Vicky Browning, chief executive of Acevo, said good policies and procedures alone were not enough for charities to create and maintain a safe, inclusive culture.

“The purpose of the Charity Commission’s report on Save the Children was to look at how complaints had been managed and if they had been managed in line with the charity’s policy,” she said.

But the report did not look at the complaints themselves, said Browning, and the regulator said in its report that it could not adjudicate on individual grievances raised by charity staff.

“This should be the beginning of a wider discussion about what additional regulatory role or support needs to be available in cases of bullying and harassment,” she said.

“To create a safe organisational culture, charity leaders should follow three key principles: being values-led, modelling ethical behaviour and nurturing a culture of continuous improvement.”

Also responding to the report, Stephanie Draper, chief executive of the international development umbrella body Bond, said charity leaders must uphold behaviour in their organisations.

“It isn’t enough to meet minimum compliance standards,” she said. “Organisations need to live and breathe a safeguarding culture, and this is where transparency and leadership are key.

“Leaders are in positions of power in their organisations, so they have a responsibility to establish and maintain an organisational culture that is conducive to safeguarding best practice.”

The #AidToo activists Shaista Aziz and Alexia Pepper de Caires yesterday called for the resignation of Kevin Watkins, chief executive of Save the Children UK, because he was a trustee of the charity when the original complaints were dealt with.

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