Eighty serious safeguarding incidents reported to regulator since Oxfam scandal

The Department for International Development said its call for assurances from aid charities had led 26 of them to report these incidents to the Charity Commission

Aid in Palestine
Aid in Palestine

A total of 80 serious safeguarding incidents have been reported to the Charity Commission in the wake of the Oxfam scandal, the Department for International Development has revealed.

Penny Mordaunt, the international development secretary, last month wrote to all aid charities that receive DfID funding asking them to provide assurances that they had reported all safeguarding concerns after it emerged that Oxfam had failed to disclose some incidents to the commission or the government.

After a summit called in response to the crisis and attended by DfID, the commission and representatives from aid charities yesterday, DfID said in a statement that the call for assurances had led 26 charities to report 80 new incidents to the commission.

Of the 26 charities, 19 had made reports that included incidents that occurred before the start of the current financial year in April 2017, which are therefore classed as historic, the statement said.

None of the charities were named by the department.

The statement also confirmed that the new DfID safeguarding standards for its partners would include "an assessment of codes of conduct, how organisations identify and respond to incidents and how their risk management places safeguarding and beneficiaries at its very core".

In a speech given yesterday, Mordaunt said organisations should not bid for funding unless they were prepared to meet the standards.

Committee's terms of reference published

The figures were released on the same day as the International Development Select Committee published the terms of reference for its inquiry into sexual exploitation and abuse in the aid sector.

The inquiry was first announced on 20 February, when representatives from Oxfam, Save the Children and DfID appeared before the committee in the wake of the scandal breaking.

The inquiry, the committee statement published yesterday said, would focus on DfID’s performance "in ensuring that UK humanitarian relief, and official development assistance, is delivered with maximum impact according to its aims and objectives and – at the very least – without ignoring, tolerating or contributing to circumstances in which the exploitation or abuse of the world’s poorest and most vulnerable people can take place".

It said the committee would explore proposals for new approaches to safeguarding within the aid sector, and look at what evidence exists of the scale and seriousness of exploitation in the sector and how such incidents had been dealt with.

The committee announcement said it would also look at whether the Charity Commission’s safeguarding processes were fit for purpose and whether it was "adequately empowered and resourced to deal with the investigation and reporting of instances of sexual exploitation and abuse among large UK charities operating in many countries".

It will also look at the impact the scandal has had on the reputations of aid charities and UK aid, and what could be done to mitigate the impact.

The deadline for written submissions to the inquiry is 6 April.

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