The chief executive of poverty relief charity Penny Appeal has promised a “root-and-branch review” of safeguarding arrangements across the organisation after an alleged incident at one of its partners.
Harris Iqbal is interim head of Penny Appeal, which was set up in 2009 to provide poverty relief in Asia, the Middle East and Africa by offering water solutions, organising mass feedings, supporting orphan care and providing emergency food and medical aid.
His commitment follows a statement published on the charity’s website earlier this week that said it had been made aware of an alleged safeguarding issue in Gambia at a local community-based organisation supported by a partner organisation, Penny Appeal Gambia.
Iqbal said the charity was in discussions with children’s charity Barnardo’s to arrange an independent review of safeguarding arrangements across Penny Appeal.
“While we prioritise safeguarding across our global programmes, this independent expert review is necessary to strengthen us further.”
Iqbal said he was deeply pained at the reports of the incident, which he said violated the charity’s fundamental values.
He said all of the children Penny Appeal supported in Gambia had returned to their guardians and were safe.
“Having recently been appointed to lead Penny Appeal, and as a father myself, there is nothing more important to me than our charity having the highest possible standards of care and safety.”
Iqbal also outlined how the charity was taking action in this case.
As well as the ongoing discussions with Barnardo’s, Penny Appeal is increasing its capacity in Gambia to cooperate with and support investigations, and engage with the Gambian government.
The charity has asked an international agency to undertake this work on its behalf, and a serious incident report has also been raised with the Charity Commission of England and Wales.
Iqbal said: “We are quadrupling the resources we devote to safeguarding globally, and are committed to doing whatever is required to ensure we have the best possible people and practices.
“We must uphold the highest standards of care and safety, and do all we can to better the lives of children around the world.”
The Charity Commission confirmed a serious incident report had been raised.
In a statement, the regulator said: “We are aware of concerns about an alleged safeguarding incident relating to one of Penny Appeal’s partner organisations.
“We have been in contact with the trustees and have advised them to provide further information to the commission so that we can fully assess this serious matter.
“All charities should be places in which people feel safe and free from harm; protecting people should be a priority for all charities.”