Most aid charities expect income to bear up despite safeguarding scandal

Of 15 international aid charities questioned by Third Sector, almost all said they were not anticipating any significant impact on donations

Most overseas aid charities expect income to hold up in the wake of the safeguarding scandal, research by Third Sector shows.

Oxfam said in June it needed to make savings of £16m, having previously revealed that 100 staff faced redundancySave the Children said earlier this month that it expected income to fall by £67m from £407m in 2017 to £340m in 2018, partly because it had withdrawn from government funding bids.

Coverage of the scandals was a factor for both charities, although Save said that when its budget was agreed in December it was already expecting a fall in income of between 10 and 15 per cent because several large multi-year projects had come to an end in 2016 and 2017.

Third Sector asked 15 of Britain’s best-known aid charities (see list, left) about the effects each charity thought the scandal would have on them in areas including overall income, voluntary income and staffing.

All 15 charities replied, but none besides Oxfam and Save predicted a significant financial downturn.

Some, including ActionAid UK, gave a categorical "no" to the question of whether they had been hit financially.

Others allowed themselves more wriggle room. Cafod, Christian Aid and Plan international UK reported no "significant" impact; Practical Action said there had been no "major" impact; and Care International UK said there had been "minimal direct impact".

Unicef UK said it "had not seen a direct impact on its income projections or headcount" as a result of the issues raised. 

Tearfund said it hadn’t experienced any "direct financial change", but pointed out that it had invested money in safeguarding by setting up a whistleblowing hotline and providing refresher safeguarding training for all staff.

Practical Action said it had also taken the opportunity to review and update its safeguarding and whistleblowing policies. 

Christian Aid said it had "received many messages of support from our supporters". 

World Vision said it had "faced periodic financial fluctuations this year", but it would be "inaccurate for us to link any ups or downs to the scandal".

Concern Worldwide UK and WaterAid said more information would be available when Bond, the UK network for international development organisations, published the findings of its survey on the impact of the recent scandal.

A spokeswoman for Bond said it was conducting the survey to gain a better understanding of what support was needed across the aid sector. It is not yet clear when the results will be available.

Third Sector’s research showed that no new job losses were anticipated from the organisations questioned.

There was a general reluctance to reveal projected income for 2018. Practical Action cited "commercial sensitivity" for withholding information, but said it was "expecting to meet planned income growth".

Some others merely provided links to their annual reports or said it was too early to tell.

Concern Worldwide UK said: "Our income projection changes a lot depending on emergencies and donor funding rounds, but we have not seen any impact by safeguarding issues."

Overall, the snapshot of responses does not suggest a sector in crisis. Most aid organisations appear to be carrying on much the same as usual.

"WaterAid’s income has remained in line with our projections, as have our supporter numbers," the charity said. Plan International UK said: "We have not seen a significant financial impact from the safeguarding issues… and have no plans to reduce headcount as a result."

Some even hinted at an upside. VSO, which said it already had a "very strong commitment to safeguarding" before the story broke, said: "Press coverage has made more people aware of the complexity of safeguarding issues.

"The good news is that we are finding that the press coverage is encouraging people both to talk openly and to raise concerns that they may have, allowing us the opportunity to respond appropriately."

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