Put beneficiaries first, says draft code of ethics drawn up by ex-NSPCC chief

Dame Mary Marsh led work on the draft code, which is open to consultation for 12 weeks

Dame Mary Marsh
Dame Mary Marsh

Charities must put the needs of beneficiaries first and must be more open and transparent about how they operate, according to a draft code of ethics published today.

The drawing up of the code was led by Dame Mary Marsh and published by the National Council for Voluntary Organisations. It forms part of a programme of work agreed by charities, umbrella bodies, the Charity Commission and the government. The code has been created after extensive negative media coverage of safeguarding problems in international aid organisations.

The NCVO said it hoped the code of ethics would provide charities with the sector’s equivalent of the Nolan principles for public office.

The proposed principles call on charities to promote a culture that does not tolerate harmful behaviour and to put in place systems that ensure decisions are free from conflicts of interest. It asks charities to consider their responsibility to the natural environment and the sustainability of their operations.

The code is divided into four main sections: Putting Beneficiaries First; Acting With Integrity; Being Open; and Ensuring the Right to be Safe

The draft code is now open to a 12-week consultation period.

Marsh, a former chief executive of the child protection charity the NSPCC, said in a statement that the code was designed to encourage charities to reflect on their existing policies and practice, "to show the sector’s commitment to ethical principles and, most importantly, to help prevent problems ever arising again".

Separately, the charity leaders body Acevo has today published the report Leading With Values: Creating a Safe Organisational Culture as part of its commitment to improving the leadership of charities after recent scandals.

The report highlights three pillars of moral leadership: being values-led; modelling ethical behaviour; and nurturing a culture of continuous improvement.

The report puts forward some ways in which charities, the Charity Commission, funders and the government can create an operating environment that does not inadvertently encourage or reward poor leadership.

Vicky Browning, chief executive of Acevo, said in a statement: "There needs to be an open discussion about the challenges facing leaders and the support they need to lead safe organisations. This report is the beginning of that discussion and the recommendations within it are designed to further strengthen the charity to reduce the risk of future harm."

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