NCVO upholds 'a number' of complaints relating to harassment, victimisation and race discrimination

The umbrella body says it examined 10 complaints and was following 'internal disciplinary procedures' where they had been upheld

The NCVO's head office in London
The NCVO's head office in London

A number of specific complaints relating to allegations of harassment, victimisation, race discrimination and safety issues at the National Council for Voluntary Organisations have been upheld, the umbrella body announced today.

The NCVO did not specify the number or identity of the perpetrators or say how many of the 10 complaints investigated had been upheld.

Last year, an independent review found NCVO staff members from all marginalised groups experienced bullying, harassment and “overt oppression” across all levels of the organisation.

A subsequent inquiry unearthed 10 specific complaints.

These complaints, which have now been investigated by two external investigators, “included accusations of harassment, victimisation, race discrimination and issues around management of health and safety” according to a statement from the organisation’s chair, Priya Singh, published this afternoon.

Singh’s statement said: “A number of the complaints have been upheld. The remaining have either not reached a conclusion or were partially upheld.”

The statement, which did not detail how many of the complaints had been upheld, went on to say: “To protect the identity of those involved in the investigations we cannot specify the number of claimants and subjects of complaints.”

Third Sector asked the NCVO to confirm how many of the 10 complaints were either fully upheld, partially upheld or had no conclusion reached on them, but a spokesperson said the umbrella body would not be publishing further information beyond what was shared in the statements. 

"This would not be appropriate or possible, given the individual legal rights of those involved," the spokesperson said. 

Asked to confirm how many people were complained about, the spokesperson said: "Throughout these investigations it has been necessary to protect the identity of the individuals involved for legal reasons, to safeguard the individuals and to ensure the integrity of the investigations and complaints process.

"As such, we will not be publicly providing details which could identify those involved or which could in part identify those involved."

In a blog post accompanying the statement, Sarah Vibert, interim chief executive of the NCVO, said it was sharing the outcomes of the investigations "in order to be transparent and so we can be held to account both for the incidents themselves but also for the actions we continue to take to develop a new culture at NCVO”.

Singh’s statement said the body was “following internal disciplinary procedures” where complaints had been upheld, but that the outcome of this process would remain confidential. 

Singh said: “I would like to apologise on behalf of the board of trustees to everyone who has been harmed as a result of these incidents and by the failings at NCVO. I am sorry for what you have experienced. 

"As I have previously stated, we will not accept incidents of bullying, harassment, and discrimination at NCVO."

She said the organisation had “begun the process of deep cultural change” to ensure it could “prevent and, when needed, identify and effectively deal with similar incidents should they arise”.

Singh said she understood the inquiry and investigation had been long and difficult for the complainants, adding: “I would like to thank them for their bravery in coming forward and being part of this process.”

Vibert also apologised to the complainants, saying: “You should never have had these experiences.”

She also acknowledged that there may be frustration about “the slow pace of change” at the organisation, which she said she shared.

"There are times over the last few months I’ve wanted us to go further and faster," Vibert said. "But real culture change takes a long time and is often not a linear process."  

She said the investigation, which was delayed by an organisational restructure, had “required a high degree of sensitivity and therefore taken several months to reach a conclusion”.

She said the organisation would be focusing on a “culture change roadmap” designed to bring about “the deep-rooted long-term change we are committed to and require”.

As part of this, she said, a whistleblowing service had been introduced, alongside a programme of personal development for the leadership team, and the organisation had created and filled a new role: that of head of people and culture.

Vibert said the NCVO had appointed consultants “who are experienced in healing and trust–building to undertake a programme of work across the organisation”, which would be followed by a formal programme of learning on equity, diversity and inclusion for all staff.

She said she was determined that the NCVO would “become an organisation people are proud to work for and partner with”.

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