Regulator to establish safeguarding taskforce

The Charity Commission says there has been a surge in safeguarding reports in the wake of the Oxfam scandal

The Charity Commission will set up a taskforce to handle a surge in safeguarding reports after the Oxfam crisis, the regulator has announced.

The taskforce, which will be made up of staff from across the Charity Commission, will also do proactive work to ensure safeguarding incidents are promptly and fully reported to the regulator, and will provide advice to charities.

There has been intense media scrutiny of Oxfam after allegations were made of sexual misconduct in the charity’s Haiti, Chad and Liberia programmes and criticisms of the charity’s handling of the situation. The Charity Commission has said that the stories have prompted an increase in serious incident reports involving safeguarding.

The commission said that its taskforce would also carry out a "deep dive" of existing serious incident reports to ensure that they have been followed up properly, and will seek advice from independent safeguarding experts.

Helen Stephenson, chief executive of the Charity Commission, said it "can’t be right" that whistleblowers who came to the Charity Commission with concerns about safeguarding were not updated on the action the regulator had taken.

Her comments came after allegations from Helen Evans, the former head of global safeguarding at Oxfam, that her concerns about Oxfam’s safeguarding policies were not acted upon by the Charity Commission.

The commission denied that it had failed to follow up on Evans’s claims, but accepted that it had not kept her informed about the actions the commission took to address issues at Oxfam.

Stephenson said: "People who make what is often a brave decision to come to the regulator with important information should, where appropriate, be reassured that we have acted on their concerns. So I want us to look carefully at the way in which we communicate with those who bring vital information to us that leads to serious regulatory action."

The Charity Commission will also hold a summit, which will be co-chaired by Tracey Crouch, the Minister for Civil Society, to ensure that all charities, not just those in the international development sector, are focused on the need for strong safeguarding for staff, volunteers and beneficiaries.

The summit would be attended by charities and sector umbrella bodies, the Charity Commission said.

It had already been announced that a similar safeguarding summit specifically for international development charities would be held by the Department for International Development and co-hosted by the Charity Commission.

The Charity Commission summit will focus on establishing a shared understanding of the safeguarding challenges the charity sector faces and listen to charities’ ideas on how these problems can be addressed.

It will also seek an agreement on actions to individually and jointly strengthen the safeguarding capability and capacity of charities working across the country.

The charity regulators in Northern Ireland and Scotland will attend both summits, the Charity Commission said.

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