Oxfam GB's trading income down by more than £50m last year as pandemic bit

The charity's income fell by £32m compared with the previous 12 months and was down £90m on the record high of two years ago

(Photograph: Polly Thomas/Getty Images)
(Photograph: Polly Thomas/Getty Images)

Oxfam GB’s total income fell for the second year in a row after a drop in retail sales of more than £50m.

The development charity's latest accounts, for the year to the end of March 2021, show its total income fell by £32m to £344m, driven in part by Covid-19 restrictions and shop closures.

This means the charity's annual income has reduced by £90m over the past two years from a high of £434m in 2018/19.

The charity said the Covid-19 pandemic had a significant impact on its network of nearly 600 shops, which closed for almost seven months, and resulted in many major fundraising events being cancelled.

Subsequently, trading income fell by more than £50m year on year, from £93.5m in 2019/20 to £39.4m.

But the charity said these losses were partly offset by increases in other areas.

Oxfam supporters raised nearly £24m through donations, fundraising and appeals – an increase of more than £5m on the previous year – while online sales grew by 46 per cent to £7.6m.

But grant income from the UK government fell more than £8m as a result of the charity’s ban from bidding on UK aid funding due to the safeguarding scandal, which came to light in 2018.

It was banned for a second time in April last year following new sexual abuse allegations against two staff members in the Democratic Republic of the Congo.

The charity was told just a month before that it could resume bidding for aid funding after a three-year pause following a previous inquiry about the reporting of sexual misconduct allegations against project workers in Haiti.

Oxfam’s latest accounts also show that it spent £3.1m on termination costs related to 198 redundancies as part of a restructure, leaving it with just over 4,317 employees.

Total spending was £368m, resulting in a net deficit for the 2020/21 financial year of £23m.

The charity said it drew on its reserves and on Covid-19-related support available from the government.

In addition, to rebuild reserves and maximise impact, it said it had reduced costs in the UK and new engagement and retail strategies were in place to grow future income.

Danny Sriskandarajah, chief executive of Oxfam GB, said: “We are hugely grateful for the generosity and compassion of people across the UK who make this work possible.

“I want to pay particular tribute to our amazing volunteers, who were tireless in their efforts to raise funds online while our shops were closed.”

This year the charity’s safeguarding team investigated 48 cases, compared with 73 cases the previous year.

Of those, 33 related to staff involved in its international programmes and 15 in its UK retail operation.

A total of 29 cases were upheld, which resulted in 16 dismissals and three being referred to the police, social services and local authorities.

The charity said the fall in the number of safeguarding reports and investigations was largely due to the impact of the pandemic.

It sacked three members of staff in June last year after an investigation into allegations of sexual misconduct, bullying and intimidation and other claims in the Democratic Republic of Congo.

In February, the Charity Commission had put the charity back on a standard regulatory footing after it found that the charity had made “significant improvements on safeguarding”.

Work continues, said the charity, to improve safeguarding and change the culture to help prevent abuses of power and better protect all those with whom Oxfam works.

Sriskandarajah said: “This is a time of transition for Oxfam as we continue our efforts to keep people safe, to evolve our culture to be truly diverse and inclusive, and to make practical changes to how we operate in order to deliver our goals.”

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