A summit and a taskforce on safeguarding in UK charities are among new measures announced by the Charity Commission in response to the allegations of misconduct by employees of Oxfam and other charities.
The Charity Commission announced on Saturday (17 February) that it is launching the suite of measures to help charities learn the wider lessons from the recent safeguarding revelations involving Oxfam and other charities, and to help strengthen public trust and confidence in charities.
A joint DfID/Charity Commission safeguarding summit with charities and umbrella bodies working internationally has already been announced by the Secretary of State for International Development with this to be a second summit: for charities and umbrella bodies working in the UK, and co-chaired by Minister for Civil Society, Tracey Crouch MP.
According to the Charity Commission, the summit will be an opportunity to reaffirm the importance of making safeguarding a key governance priority for charities, and to:
- establish a shared understanding of the safeguarding challenges facing charities working in the UK and emphasise the importance of maintaining public trust in the sector
- hear the sector’s ideas for solutions and what actions they are taking and will take
- agree and commit to actions jointly and individually to strengthen the safeguarding capability and capacity of charities working across the UK
Both summits will involve charity regulators in Scotland and Northern Ireland to enable a coordinated approach cross-border.
The Commission is also establishing a taskforce, which will include staff from across the Commission, to deal with the increased volume of safeguarding serious incident reports which it has said it is already experiencing since the Oxfam story first appeared. The team will also work to ensure prompt and full reporting of serious safeguarding incidents, and give advice to charities reporting safeguarding incidents on appropriate actions.
In addition the team will undertake a ‘deep dive’ of existing serious incident reporting records to identify any gaps in full and frank disclosure and to ensure any follow up actions, for charities or the regulator, have been completed. It will intervene in serious cases where it are concerned that trustees are not fulfilling their legal duties.
The regulator will also use independent experts on safeguarding, both in the international context and in the UK, to advise and support the work of the taskforce, the investigations team leading the Oxfam inquiry, and the two charity summits.
The Charity Commission has also said that it is reissuing its previous alert to all charities emphasising the importance of full and frank disclosure, while Helen Stephenson, Charity Commission Chief Executive, has announced that she wants the organisation to review the way in which it communicates with informants who raise serious regulatory concerns that result in regulatory action.
Helen Stephenson, CBE, said:
“The Commission’s actions and messages over the past few years demonstrate the top priority we expect charities to give to safeguarding, and the priority we place on ensuring trustees meet their legal duties, and public expectations, around this.
“But recent revelations have shocked us all and brought a new focus on how charities deal with these issues. We want to do everything we can, using our authority as regulator, to ensure that safeguarding is prioritised in all charities – not just those working with groups traditionally considered at risk. That’s what these two summits are about.
“Following alerts we issued in December 2017, and the recent public concerns following the events with Oxfam, we are already seeing increased reporting by charities, including historic incidents. While I am confident of the Commission’s record on tackling issues which have been fully and frankly reported, I want to be 100% certain that we have done everything in our power to ensure reports we received. The team’s work will reassure us, and the public, that charities have and are being transparent and open with the regulator, and that we are holding charities properly to account.”
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