Don't put your reputation before accountability, says chair of Oxfam GB

Caroline Thomson tells a meeting of the All-Party Parliamentary Group on Charities and Volunteering that charities should be committed to transparency

Caroline Thomson (Photograph: Shutterstock)
Caroline Thomson (Photograph: Shutterstock)

Charities must not put the protection of their reputations before accountability for safeguarding issues, the chair of Oxfam GB has said.

Speaking at a meeting of the All-Party Parliamentary Group on Charities and Volunteering in the Houses of Parliament yesterday, Caroline Thomson called for a commitment to transparency among charities.

"Charities need to be held to account," she said, "and never put the protection of their reputations above accountability."

Thomson, a former senior BBC executive who became chair of the charity in October, said she did not feel the sector could ever completely wipe out instances of inappropriate behaviour, but should be better at tackling them.

"I do not think we can ever eradicate behaviour like this, but we should be minimising it," she said. "And when it does happen, we must make sure that people are called to account and the organisation learns its lessons for the future."

Thomson also repeated the charity’s apology for the ongoing safeguarding scandal.

"I don’t think one can say it enough," she said. "It is a sense of betrayal that I feel and I am so shocked at what went on. I feel emotional about it."

Thomson also said she did not feel the charity did enough work on changing its culture after the 2011 case. 

Also speaking at the meeting was Rosie Carter, managing director of the safeguarding not-for-profit organisation SAFEcic, who warned that the average cost of an abuse case was £175,000.

She called for the Disclosure and Barring Service to be scrapped, saying it was too complicated and difficult for charities to use.

Thomson was challenged at the meeting by Dame Hilary Blume, founder of the Charities Advisory Trust, who said the Oxfam scandal had "set the charity sector back by decades".

She said: "I would like to see the Department for International Development stop funding big charities because they do not know what they are doing."

Thomson responded by saying that Oxfam had established a safeguarding taskforce that she would chair and in future she would have monthly meetings with the charity’s head of safeguarding in order to emphasise the significance of the issue.

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