Whistleblowing charity finds weak spots in charities' policies

A report by Protect says few charities monitor the risk of whistleblower victimisation through any aftercare process

Too many charities have no idea whether their staff have confidence in their whistleblowing arrangements and do not look for feedback from those who have raised concerns, the whistleblowing charity Protect has found. 

A report from the charity, based on research conducted with 20 not-for-profit organisations, says it uncovered weak spots around how charities handled whistleblowers and issues with training and confidentiality. 

Protect said it believed its research highlighted issues that were symptomatic of many charities. 

The report, Time to Transform: Insights from Protect’s Third Sector Pilot Assessing Whistleblowing Standards, says work is needed to restore trust in the charity sector after the Oxfam and Save the Children scandals. 

The report says that although 80 per cent of the charities surveyed said they had zero-tolerance approaches to whistleblower victimisation, none monitored the risk of this through any aftercare process. 

Only about half of the charities differentiated between whistleblowing and grievances, the report says, making it harder for staff to know where to go with concerns.

Almost nine out of 10 charities do not offer whistleblowing training to staff receiving and acting on whistleblowing concerns, according to Protect. 

“If whistleblowers are not given assurances about confidentiality, and if no action is taken when victimisation occurs, others will not be encouraged to speak up,” the report says. 

“Too many charities have no idea whether their staff have confidence in the whistleblowing arrangements and do not seek feedback from those who have raised concerns.”

Participating charities completed a self-assessment of their whistleblowing cultures between October and January, scoring themselves across governance, staff engagement and effective operations. 

Liz Gardiner, chief executive of Protect, said: “Our findings on attitudes to keeping whistleblowers’ names confidential and victimisation are revealing.

“What we are hearing via our advice line is that many charity workers are still feeling very scared about raising concerns with their employers.

“There’s a lot to do to restore trust. And there is much more charities themselves need to do when handling and investigating concerns.

“As whistleblowing experts, we want to be part of what we hope is the start of a transformation in the sector, and for more of the thousands of charities across the UK to recognise that whistleblowers play a vital role for their organisations and society at large.”

Protect said it wanted to see a larger-scale project that would help raise awareness of whistleblowing issues across charities in England and Wales.

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