Restless Development denies media allegations of safeguarding failures

The Independent claims that volunteers at the charity's International Citizen Service programme in South Africa engaged in inappropriate relationships with local students

The international development charity Restless Development has said it found "no evidence of breaches of safeguarding" in one of its programmes after media claims of sexual misconduct carried out by some of its volunteers.

A story in The Independent today claims that volunteers in the charity’s International Citizen Service programme in South Africa – a government-funded programme offering overseas placements for 18 to 25-year-olds – had engaged in inappropriate relationships with local students.

The story also claims that the charity left volunteers living in unsafe places and the charity’s management dismissed concerns raised about incidents that took place in the programme between 2012 and 2016.

The Charity Commission said it was assessing the concerns.

But the charity said in a statement on its website that investigations in 2016 and more recently found "no evidence of breaches of safeguarding".

The charity said: "We have worked hard to take action in response to the concerns raised by volunteers during these cycles.

"We listened to volunteers who made complaints to understand their concerns, we ran detailed investigations and we created action plans and implemented them to improve our work where it was needed."

The charity said that it had a "rigorous" safety and security protocol that was overseen by Voluntary Service Overseas and the Department for International Development. It also had two telephone lines – one in London and the other in the host country – through which volunteers could raise concerns.

The charity said it had a strict code of conduct that volunteers had to sign and it had taken "appropriate disciplinary action" against volunteers and staff who breached the code.

"Our programmes have consistently received A to A++ ratings from DfID," the charity said.

"Working with our partners and volunteers, we will continue working to strengthen our processes and ensure ICS is an impactful and positive experience for volunteers and communities."

DfID does not fund Restless Development directly, but the charity is one of six subcontractors that receive government funding via the ICS programme.

DfID provided VSO with £31.3m in the 2017/18 financial year to run the ICS programme.

A spokeswoman for DfID said: "Volunteer safety and security is the first priority for DfID, VSO and the entire ICS consortium.

"The international development secretary has been clear she is committed to driving up standards across the aid sector and she expects every organisation that we work with to have rigorous reporting and complaints mechanisms in place to protect beneficiaries and employees alike."

A spokeswoman for the Charity Commission said: "We are aware of a number of historical allegations about Restless Development, some of which have only recently been reported to the commission.

"We are currently assessing information provided to ensure appropriate action has been taken in all cases."

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