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“Your time is up” Mordaunt warns offenders at Safeguarding Summit

“Your time is up” Mordaunt warns offenders at Safeguarding Summit

DFID is to put in place new standards for the organisations it works with, with no funds to be approved unless organisations pass them, Penny Mordaunt MP has announced.

Speaking at yesterday’s Safeguarding Summit, the International Development Secretary said that the standards would include an assessment of codes of conduct, how organisations identify and respond to incidents, and how their risk management places safeguarding and beneficiaries at their core.

The Summit was co-hosted by the Department for International Development (DFID) and the Charity Commission, and saw Mordaunt challenge UK-based international development charities, regulatory bodies and independent experts to drive up standards and agree practical tools, processes and protocols to ensure the aid sector protects the people it serves.

According to Mordaunt, all 179 UK-based charities that work overseas and receive UK aid have now given DFID their requested statement of assurance on four key areas, including their safeguarding environment and policies, their organisational culture, their clarity and transparency, and their handling of allegations and incidents. DFID is following up with 37 organisations to gain further clarity on their assurance.

Of the 179 charities that have provided returns, 26 have made serious incident reports to the Charity Commission. 19 of those 26 charities have made reports, among others, relating to incidents that occurred in previous financial years, prior to April 2017, and are therefore classed as historic. In total, the 26 charities have reported 80 incidents broadly related to safeguarding issues.

Mordaunt said that the aid sector now had to rebuild credibility and that the returns received from the 179 charities had revealed an overall lack of risk management, comprehensive reporting, responsibility being taken at the highest level for safeguarding, and of putting beneficiaries first:

“Unless we do all we can to prevent wrongdoing, and unless we can hold all those who do wrong to account, we will have failed in our duty to protect the most vulnerable. So if we are to meet our duty, then the sector must raise standards.

“I am determined that DFID will play its full part in this. So, from today, DFID will put in place new, enhanced and specific safeguarding standards for the organisations we work with. These standards will include an assessment of codes of conduct, how organisations identify and respond to incidents, and how their risk management places safeguarding and beneficiaries at the very core.

“That assessment will set the bar at a level of the very best – a bar that we will continue to push higher – from our work here today and in the time to come. Our standards will be world-leading. They will be tough and exacting. Organisations should not bid for new funding unless they are prepared to meet these tough new standards. We will not approve funds to them unless they pass our new standards.”

Mordaunt also said that DFID would start applying these new standards to organisations it has ongoing work with, and will apply them to all partners, regardless of size.

How does DFID compare following its own internal review?

During the Summit, the findings of DFID’s own internal review into sexual harassment and misconduct allegations involving DFID staff were revealed. Since 1995, there have been 14 closed cases where claims that DFID staff were responsible for misconduct of a sexual nature have been substantiated, with ‘fewer than five’ occurring in 2017. The majority relate to sexual harassment between staff members, with no proven allegations of DFID staff paying for sex. There is also no suggestion of misconduct of a sexual nature involving DFID staff and under 18 year olds or of sexual exploitation in exchange for aid. Action was taken on all of the cases in line with DFID policies at the time.

There are also ‘fewer than five’ cases that are open or have been newly reported to DFID relating to past events that it is currently investigating.

Image: Penny Mordaunt speaking at the Safeguarding Summit. Credit: Jo Harrison/ DFID

Melanie May is a journalist and copywriter specialising in writing both for and about the charity and marketing services sectors since 2001. She can be reached via www.thepurplepim.com.

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