Regulator had 'extensive engagement' with Save the Children in 2015/16

The Charity Commission says the regulatory engagement occurred in connection with allegations of sexual misconduct by former chief executive Justin Forsyth and the former policy manager Brendan Cox

The Charity Commission had "extensive regulatory engagement" with Save the Children in 2015/16 after claims of sexual misconduct were made against the charity’s chief executive at the time, Justin Forsyth, and its former policy manager, Brendan Cox.

Forsyth left Save the Children in 2015 after allegations emerged that he had sent inappropriate texts to colleagues that were investigated by the charity in 2011 and 2015.

He resigned last week as deputy executive director of Unicef, saying he did not wish to cause damage to the two charities, although he said it was not because of his behaviour at Save.

Cox, the widower of the murdered MP Jo Cox, stepped down earlier this month from the charity set up in her name after claims of sexual misconduct during his time at Save the Children resurfaced.

The commission said in a statement that it had "extensive regulatory engagement with Save the Children in 2015/16 about alleged misconduct and inappropriate behaviour by two senior executives".

The statement added: "We were subsequently provided with the findings of an independent review commissioned by the trustees, which looked at the handling of the incidents, processes, systems and organisational culture and provided a set of recommendations to the charity.

"We received direct confirmation and assurance from trustees that all of these recommendations had been accepted and were being urgently acted upon. We are now seeking further information and assurances from the charity on the scope of this new review."

Watkins recuses himself from Save's independent review

Kevin Watkins, chief executive of Save the Children UK, has said he will not play a part in the charity’s independent review of its handling of sexual misconduct complaints amid concerns about a possible conflict of interest.

Watkins was a trustee for eight years before becoming chief executive of Save the Children in 2016, so he was on the board at the time of the investigation into the claims against Forsyth and Cox.

The Charity Commission said that, as part of its engagement with Save the Children, it had "sought urgent clarification on how the potential conflict of interest regarding the current chief executive is being managed" in regards to the independent review.

In a statement, Watkins said he has initiated the independent review of the charity’s processes for handling "complaints about behaviour in the workplace", but has "recused myself from the review and committed to publishing the findings".

Third Sector understands that Watkins never intended to play any part in the independent review because of concerns about the potential conflict of interest.

"Many comments and concerns have been raised over the past week," Watkins said. "Some of these relate to specific cases covered in the media. Others relate to my role as trustee over eight years prior to becoming chief executive.

"Over the past couple of weeks I have also had a chance to speak to many staff and former employees. It is absolutely clear to me that we have to strengthen our organisational culture.

"We can debate strategies for achieving various goals. Where there is no debate is on the imperative to ensure that all of our staff feel protected, safe, respected and listened to – to make sure we are where we need to be."

Further details about the independent review will be released later this week, Watkins said.

A petition calling for the resignation of Save the Children’s international chair, Sir Alan Parker, has also been circulating among staff at the charity, according to media reports, because he was chair of the UK branch of the charity between 2008 and 2015.

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