Unicef UK appoints new executive director

Jon Sparkes will leave his current position as chief executive of Crisis UK to take up the role in 2022

Jon Sparkes
Jon Sparkes

Unicef UK has appointed Jon Sparkes as its executive director. He will join the children’s charity from his current role as chief executive of the national charity for homeless people, Crisis UK.

Steve Waugh, Unicef UK’s chief financial officer, will continue as interim executive director until Sparkes takes up his new role early next.

Crisis UK said it will begin looking for Sparkes’ replacement next month.

He previously worked at Unicef UK for nearly three years as chief operating officer before taking over at Crisis in 2014.

Prior to that, he spent nearly six years as chief executive of the disability charity Scope.

Shatish Dasani, chair of Unicef UK, said: “Jon brings an incredibly impressive record of leading large national charities where he has delivered sustained income growth, national partnerships and policy change.

“His leadership, together with his passion for children’s rights, means that the board and I are excited to work together with Jon in this next chapter for Unicef UK as it continues to deliver impactful change for children all over the world.”

In September last year Unicef UK’s previous executive director, Sacha Deshmukh, resigned after less than six months in the role amid claims of bullying behaviour by the charity’s chair.

Douglas Alexander, the chair at the time, stepped down when the claims were made. He was subsequently cleared of the alleged incidents of bullying by an independent investigation.

In July this year Unicef UK was forced to apologise after two consultants pulled out of a project on health systems strengthening having accused the charity of institutional racism.

Despite a difficult 12 months, the charity posted a record total income just a week after the two consultants pulled out of the project.

Sparkes said he was excited to begin work at Unicef UK and help achieve its vision of a world fit for every child.

He added: “Right now, children are facing the devastating impacts of the Covid-19 pandemic, the climate crisis and coming under attack in conflicts across the world, threatening their survival and ability to reach their full potential.

The work of Unicef UK to advocate for and create change for children has never been so vital.”

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