Kevin Watkins says he won't resign from Save the Children UK

The chief executive has faced calls to go because of the way the charity has handled allegations of sexual misconduct by senior staff

Kevin Watkins
Kevin Watkins

Kevin Watkins, chief executive of Save the Children UK, has rejected calls for his resignation over the charity’s handling of alleged sexual misconduct by senior employees.

The charity has been hit by a number of revelations in recent months about past sexual misconduct by former senior employees, including inappropriate texts sent to female staff members by the charity's former chief executive, Justin Forsyth.

Earlier this month, the Charity Commission opened an inquiry into the charity over its handling, reporting and response to claims of misconduct and harassment by senior staff.

And Sir Alan Parker, chairman of Save the Children International, resigned last week after accusations that the charity had failed to deal with the claims adequately.

The allegations about Forsyth were investigated by the charity in 2011 and 2015, and Forsyth left his role in 2015. He stood down as deputy executive director of Unicef after the allegations emerged in February.

Allegations have also been made about Brendan Cox, the charity’s former policy director and widower of the murdered MP Jo Cox, of inappropriate behaviour towards women.

Cox left Save the Children in 2015 and admitted last month that he had "made mistakes" during his time at the charity.

A Save the Children whistleblower, Alexia Pepper de Caires, who now works for the Women’s Equality Party, told The Mail on Sunday newspaper that Watkins should resign because of a "culture of complicity" at the charity over sexual misconduct by senior staff.

The whistleblower also interrupted a Save the Children board meeting last month to confront the charity’s trustees about the handling of the sexual misconduct claims.

Watkins, who took over as chief executive of Save the Children in September 2016, said in a statement that "nothing will deflect me" from the charity’s work.

His statement said: "The world’s children need Save the Children – and my job is to ensure we are there for them.

"Let me restate this categorically: I have zero tolerance for any form of bullying or sexual harassment. Our staff work for Save the Children because they are passionate, professional and committed to making a difference for children.

"They have a right to be protected – and I will defend that right."

Watkins said he had established an independent review "to strengthen our workplace culture" and the charity’s training systems had been improved to "build respect in the workplace".

He said he was cooperating with the Charity Commission’s inquiry into Save the Children.

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