Oxfam posts record income, despite a fall in donations after scandal

The charity's accounts to March show an income of £434m, boosted by a trebling of legacy income

Oxfam’s overall income increased to a record £434m despite the charity experiencing a fall in donations from the public after last year’s safeguarding scandal, its latest accounts show.

The charity’s accounts for the year to 31 March 2019 show that total income rose to £434.1m from £427.2m, with total spending falling from £438.7m to £397.5m.

Its income was boosted by money from legacies, which more than trebled from £18m to £54m.

However, this rise masked falls in other forms of income, such as from the charity’s regular givers, its network of shops and governments.

Oxfam declined to reveal the reasons for the large rise in legacy income, but it is believed that last year the charity was the main beneficiary of the estate of the businessman Richard Cousins, who died with his family in a seaplane crash.

Cousins was estimated to be worth £41m and had left the money to Oxfam in his will in the event that he died alongside his two sons, both of whom were killed in the same accident.

Oxfam’s latest accounts also show that income from regular givers declined in 2018/19, down from £52.2m to £47m.

The charity accepted that the reduction in public donations occurred because of the safeguarding scandal in its Haiti programme, which was widely reported in the media last year.

"The negative impact of past safeguarding failings in Haiti was, as expected, reflected within our annual accounts as some supporters decided not to continue their support of Oxfam," the accounts say.

"We cannot say exactly how many, as income from regular giving routinely fluctuates year on year. However, we understand the disappointment felt by some supporters and hope we can earn their trust and support again in years to come."

Mark Goldring, chief executive of Oxfam at the time, who left the charity towards the end of 2018, confirmed to a parliamentary select committee in February last year that 7,000 regular givers stopped donating in the immediate aftermath of the media reports on the Haiti scandal.

Income from trading fell slightlyin 2018/19, from £93.9m to £92.8m, according to the accounts, which the charity put down to difficulties on the UK high street.

Income from institutional donors fell from £207m to £184.3m, with the charity having withdrawn from applying for new UK government funding for the duration of the statutory inquiryinto the Haiti allegations, led by the Charity Commission.

The commission’s inquiry concluded earlier this year and criticised the charity for a "culture of tolerating poor behaviour".

The charity’s 2018/19 accounts reported that it spent £2.1m on redundancy payments, with 66 people made redundant as part of budget cuts after the Haiti scandal.

An internal document leaked to the media last year showed the charity was looking at efficiency savings of about £16m.

The charity had 5,054 staff in 2018/19, down from 5,274 the year before, the accounts show.

The latest accounts also provide an update on the changes introduced at Oxfam after the Haiti scandal, with the charity having created a new role of global director of safeguarding with a specialist team of eight staff.

The charity said it had also improved training, recruitment, vetting and its case management system, and introduced a more survivor-centric approach to handling reports.

Oxfam received 80 reports of safeguarding breaches in 2018/19, the accounts show, 52 of which were from its international programmes.

Forty-nine of the reports led to internal investigations, with 25 of those investigations having been completed.

The accounts say that 16 complaints were upheld and 13 of the 80 reports were passed to the police.

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