Regulator ends statutory oversight of Oxfam GB after 'significant improvements'

The charity has been working on a list of 100 actions that formed part of an official warning issued in June 2019

The Charity Commission has put Oxfam GB back on a standard regulatory footing after concluding that the charity had made “significant improvements on safeguarding”. 

The regulator opened a statutory inquiry into the charity in February 2018 after it emerged that Oxfam had failed to adequately report the extent of sexual misconduct allegations by project workers in Haiti. 

The commission issued the charity with an official warning on the publication of its inquiry report in June 2019, which concluded that there was mismanagement and "a culture of tolerating poor behaviour”

The charity has since been under statutory supervision by the regulator as it worked on a list of 100 actions or recommendations to improve its governance that formed part of the warning issued by the regulator. 

The commission said today that the charity had “significantly strengthened its approach to keeping people safe” and responded positively to regulatory scrutiny. 

“The charity has implemented wide-ranging changes to its organisational culture, and strengthened its approach, resources and processes, such that people served or employed by the charity are now better protected against abuse, exploitation, and other forms of harm,” the regulator said. 

It said the “large majority” of the 100 actions had been completed, with only limited areas in which the charity needed to carry out further work. 

“The commission is therefore satisfied that its period of statutory supervision can end, and the charity has now reverted to the commission’s standard regulatory oversight," the commission said. 

“As is routine for charities of Oxfam’s size and reach, the commission will remain in regular contact and will follow up on any new concerns as a matter of urgency.”

Helen Stephenson, chief executive of the Charity Commission, said: “Oxfam GB’s leadership has done much work since 2019 to respond to our inquiry, and learn lessons from the charity’s past mistakes and failings. 

“That effort means that Oxfam GB is now providing a safer environment for all who come into contact with it. 

“But safeguarding is never ‘done’. As our report makes clear, while Oxfam has made significant progress, its leaders must ensure that the charity’s living culture – the spoken and unspoken expectations placed on all staff and all volunteers – continues to promote an environment that keeps people safe into the future.”

Danny Sriskandarajah, chief executive of Oxfam GB, said: “I am pleased that both the Charity Commission and the independent assessors have recognised the progress we have made in strengthening our safeguarding. 

“All forms of sexual misconduct are abhorrent and an affront to everything we stand for.

“We have worked hard to learn from the mistakes of the past and ensure that our vital work to save and improve lives takes place in as safe an environment as possible in a way that is consistent with our values.”

He said the announcement was an important milestone in the charity’s journey to become a safer organisation, “but I can promise that this is not the end of our efforts”.

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