Charities – Sexual Abuse

I have deliberately spent most of my career working for charities. I was lucky enough to hold some senior posts and feel satisfied that in my mundane daily work I was able to help charities to deliver much-needed assistance to the public. I believe in charities and have been for a while dissatisfied that governments have not supported charities better. Charities in the main are good value for money, and the service they provide is often essential for local communities, nationally and internationally.

It’s regrettable to read re charities revelations about the sex abuse scandal. It is even more shocking that large charities like Oxfam’s staff, for example, paid survivors of the 2010 Haiti earthquake for sex. Oxfam’s senior management comments about this have been less than impressive. There are so many questions about poor governance, how do charities with caseworkers abroad independently review their conduct, I would question their complaints procedure and of course if charities knew or suspected that this was happening: what did they do to ensure such abuse never occurs again and hold individuals (from management to case-workers on the ground) to account.

The chairman of the international development committee, Stephen Twigg, was right when he said charities were “more concerned to protect their own reputation”. The committee he is the chair of state in their report “…This has been a known problem in the international aid sector for years.”

Oxfam is not the only charity involved in such dealings, as much as 22 charities have apologised after the scandal became public. A statement from an umbrella body for the international development sector said: “The events in 2002 in West Africa were shocking and shameful for the whole humanitarian and development sector. Women and children living in refugee camps who had already suffered so much should never have been in a situation where their vulnerability could be preyed upon…”

The sex scandal will affect funding for the charities that have been named. Save the Children UK expects to lose £67 million this year, Oxfam is also expected to lose £16 millions of unrestricted funding (this is a big blow as unrestricted financing gives charities the ability to use the funds more or less how they like, unlike restricted funding that is specific). Oxfam has also lost the support and funding from a large number of individual donors.

Charities haven’t done enough since the early part of this century to control and stop this abuse. Consequently, vulnerable people have suffered and the charities that provide services which make a real difference have lost credibility and funds to support those in need across the world.  If nothing else this sorry affair has raised the question about the quality of leadership in charities and how the Charity Commission regulates the sector. The sector is losing its reputation and it’s now up to the leaders in the sectors to lead and restore that and ensure a safe, supportive environment for those they look to assist.


* Cllr. Tahir Maher is a member of the LDV editorial team

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  • As Willie Sutton said when asked why he robbed banks “Because that’s where the money is”, it should not be a surprise that amongst the majority of charity workers who do their best to help lurk a minority who do their best to prey on the victims. Eternal vigilance should be a charities watchword, it wouldn’t do any harm for poltical parties to use the same watchword; they attrack more than their share of chancers.

  • Peter Hirst 2nd Aug '18 - 9:59am

    One issue must be the vetting of people who work largely independently overseas. It takes a certain sort of person to enjoy being away from home for extended periods. Just because someone is keen to help a charity, does not mean they are trustworthy.

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