Save the Children UK chair to step down early after investigation

Peter Bennett-Jones was found to have made comments in a meeting with staff that were at odds with the charity's response to a review of its working culture

Peter Bennett-Jones
Peter Bennett-Jones

Peter Bennett-Jones, chair of Save the Children UK, is to step down early from the post after making comments to staff that could be seen as being at odds with the charity’s review of its working culture.

Bennett-Jones, who has been a trustee of the charity since February 2015 and chair since September 2015, had planned to stand down from the role later in 2019, according to a statement from Save today, but decided to bring forward his departure to January after an investigation into comments he had made at a meeting with staff.

The statement said the investigation had concluded the remarks "could have been perceived as being at odds with the organisation’s response to a review of its working culture earlier in the year".

The charity said he had recognised this and had apologised for any upset caused.

It is understood that trustees had not asked Bennett-Jones, whose second term on the board was due to expire in February 2020, to step down.

Save the Children UK commissioned an independent review of its working culture this year after staff expressed concerns about how the charity had handled allegations of sexual misconduct against some of its senior executives, including its former chief executive Justin Forsyth.

Forsyth, who led the charity between 2010 and 2015, admitted sending inappropriate text messages to junior female members of staff during his time at Save the Children.

The Charity Commission opened an inquiry into the charity in April about the charity’s handling, reporting and response to claims of misconduct and harassment by senior staff.

The charity pledged to work with staff to review its organisational structure and operations after the review, the findings of which were published in October, found that 28 per cent of staff said they had experienced either discrimination or harassment.

A statement from the Save the Children UK board today said trustees were "grateful for Peter’s passionate commitment to our important cause and his unwavering dedication as chair over the past three years in steering the charity through some difficult times".

It said: "Trustees do not doubt Peter’s support for – and commitment to – the charity’s continuing efforts to strengthen its culture."

Bennett-Jones, who chairs an agency for people in the entertainment industry, said in a statement: "It has been a privilege to work with the staff and supporters of Save the Children UK, helping millions of deprived and marginalised children to survive and thrive in some of the most hostile environments in the world.

"After three years as chair, I believe a change will help the organisation best tackle the complex challenges it faces."

The charity said an interim chair would be appointed next month.

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