Charity Commission opens hundreds of safeguarding cases following Oxfam scandal

Hundreds of new serious cases of charity beneficiaries and staff being put at risk of harm have emerged in the wake of the Oxfam scandal, a watchdog said.

The Charity Commission has opened 440 new cases after receiving 523 fresh reports in February and March, almost half the number it received in the year 2016/17.

Some of the new cases involved “potentially criminal” allegations, which the regulator said it was checking had been passed on to police.

Thirty-three charities funded by the Government, including Oxfam and Save The Children, submitted 219 incident reports after International Development Secretary Penny Mordaunt demanded assurances that the organisations were forthcoming.

Of those, 127 of the new cases related to historical allegations and were spread across 24 charities.

Oxfam was plunged into crisis in February after it emerged some of its workers in Haiti engaged in “sex parties” with prostitutes in the aftermath of the devastating 2010 earthquake.

The scandal rippled out to other aid organisations, including Save The Children, which the regulator announced last week was also now subject to its own statutory inquiry.

The Charity Commission said the new reports of what it refers to as “serious safeguarding incidents” cover incidents from a failure to follow procedures to physical or sexual abuse and were received either by charities or by whistleblowers.

The body defines safeguarding as the duty of trustees to ensure staff, beneficiaries and anyone who comes into contact with the charity are protected from harm such as emotional abuse, radicalisation and exploitation.

It said: “The reports cover a wide spectrum, and some relate to risks of harm that a charity has identified, rather than to incidents of harm.

“For example, internal audits showing that safeguarding procedures were not followed in certain situations.”

The regulator’s safeguarding taskforce, set up following the Oxfam revelations, is also more than half way through reviewing historical cases since April 1 2014 and said it had found one of more than 2,000 reports involved alleged criminal behaviour that had not been reported to authorities at the time.

The Commission, which did not name the charity involved, said the matter had now been reported to police.

Of the 3,300 cases reviewed, it added: “Analysis so far has not identified any cases where the Commission has serious and urgent concerns that require it to take immediate action, or where it has had to engage with the authorities about any ongoing risk or criminality.”

A report will be published into the key findings once the review is completed, the commission said.

Ms Mordaunt, said: “It is absolutely right that more individuals and charities are reporting safeguarding concerns to the Charity Commission. We are driving up standards across the aid sector and we expect every organisation we work with to have rigorous reporting and complaints mechanisms in place.

“It is only by bringing serious concerns to light that we can ensure victims receive the support they need and bring the perpetrators to justice.”

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