Regulator's Oxfam inquiry to include independent review of safeguarding

Kate Gallafent QC has been appointed to carry out an external review of the charity's governance, management, policies and practices in relation to safeguarding

Haiti: source of the scandal that engulfed Oxfam
Haiti: source of the scandal that engulfed Oxfam

The Charity Commission’s inquiry into Oxfam GB will include an independent review, overseen by a barrister, of the charity’s safeguarding practices, the regulator has announced.

The commission said in a statement today that it had worked with the charity to appoint Kate Gallafent QC of Blackstone Chambers to chair an external review of Oxfam’s governance, management, policies and practices with regard to safeguarding.

Former chief police officer Jim Gamble, who is chief executive of the safeguarding consultancy Ineqe Group and was founding head of the Child Exploitation and Online Protection Centre, will conduct the review.

It will be carried out under the supervision of the regulator’s statutory inquiry into the charity, which was opened last month.

The review, which will be paid for by Oxfam, will examine areas including Oxfam’s safeguarding arrangements, its management of safeguarding allegations since 2011 and its reporting of relevant incidents to the commission and law enforcement or other agencies.

It will also look at the charity’s progress towards implementing a safeguarding action plan agreed with the regulator last year.

A spokeswoman for Oxfam did not respond to a question from Third Sector on Wednesday morning about how much the review would cost the charity.

Harvey Grenville, head of investigations and enforcement at the Charity Commission, said the terms of reference for the review had been drafted to "guarantee independent scrutiny and rigour".

He said: "We expect the review to support Oxfam GB in developing its existing action plan to deliver an improved safeguarding framework for the future that meets these standards."

An Oxfam spokeswoman said the review was a welcome chance for the charity to get new insights into how it could learn from the mistakes of the past and improve its safeguarding practices.

"It is an opportunity to build on the action plan we have already put in place to drive cultural change, challenge the conditions that enable sexual abuse and harassment to exist, and root it out wherever it occurs," she said.
"We are deeply sorry for the actions of some former staff in Haiti, which were contrary to our values, particularly our commitment to women's rights. We are determined that all women and men we support and employ feel safe, listened to and respected." 

The review is separate from an independent commission set up by Oxfam to review the charity’s approach to safeguarding, which is being co-chaired by Zainab Bangura, former under-secretary general of the UN, and Katherine Sierra, former vice-president of the World Bank.

Anyone with information that could be relevant to the Gallafent inquiry is being asked to email OxfamInquiry@charitycommission.gsi.gov.uk.

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Safeguarding - the process of making sure that children and vulnerable adults are protected from harm - is a big concern for organisations in the third sector.