Save the Children 'deeply concerned' by von Bernuth affair

Rudy von Bernuth, who worked in senior positions for the charity for more than 20 years, was sacked in 2014 after child safeguarding allegations were made

- This story was updated on 2 March 2018; please see final paragraph

Save the Children US has said it is "deeply concerned" at failures in its recruitment and employment policies in the case of a senior employee at the charity who had worked in the charity's UK office and was sacked in relation to historical child safeguarding concerns.

Media reports said that a senior director at the charity, Rudy von Bernuth, who worked for the charity for more than 20 years in a number of senior positions, was dismissed by Save the Children in 2014.

The charity reported this dismissal and the claims against von Bernuth to the relevant authorities in the US and to the Charity Commission, because he was reportedly on secondment to London from the charity’s US branch.

Save the Children has been hit by a number of revelations in recent weeks about past sexual misconduct by former employees, including inappropriate texts sent to female staff members by the charity’s former chief executive Justin Forsyth. There have also been allegations of inappropriate behaviour towards women by its former policy director, Brendan Cox.

In a statement on the allegations against von Bernuth, Save the Children said it was "appalled at" and denounced von Bernuth’s actions, which took place prior to and during his employment at the charity.

"We are heartbroken at the pain he caused," the statement said. "At the time of our investigations into the matter in 2013, we developed an action plan to correct the personnel problems unearthed, and Save the Children promptly shared our findings with US and UK authorities."

The statement said the charity was "deeply concerned" that it mishandled von Bernuth’s hiring and "other aspects of his employment".

It said: "Our objective is to understand thoroughly what happened and to ensure that we learn how to better protect our staff."

A spokeswoman for the Charity Commission confirmed that the regulator received a serious incident report from Save the Children International in March 2014 "relating to a staff member and historic child safeguarding concerns".

She added: "As part of our engagement with the charity, we established that the individual in question was suspended and later had his employment terminated by the charity."

The US branch of the charity has appointed Mary Jo White, former US Attorney for the Southern District of New York, to conduct a "thorough external investigation of the matter, including the organisation’s current procedures for hiring and related employment practices and for addressing claims of sexual misconduct and harassment".

The charity said this review would coordinate with other reviews being carried out in other branches of the charity.

"We are committed to ensuring that at Save the Children our culture fosters a safe and respectful work environment for everyone, and that we protect those we serve from harm, with the focus on improving children’s lives worldwide," the statement said.

- The story originally said Save the Children International was deeply concerned at failures in recruitment procedures, but the statement was issued by the US branch of the charity.

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