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Surge in complaints about charity misconduct after Oxfam scandal

This news post is almost 6 years old

The Charity Commission has investigated more complaints in the past four months than it did in the whole of the previous year

More than a thousand complaints about charity safeguarding have been made since the Oxfam scandal.

The Charity Commission revealed this week that it has received 1,152 concerns about serious safeguarding incidents over the past four months, compared with 1,210 in the whole of 2016/17.

And the Scottish Charity Regulator (OSCR) has also reported a rise in complaints about misconduct.

In Scotland, 16 notifications from charities concerning the safeguarding of vulnerable beneficiaries have been made since February.

This compares to 19 that were made in the 10-month period from April 2017 to February, however the regulator said it expected an increase in reports as it has been encouraging organisations to report any concerns.

An OSCR spokeswoman said: "We would expect a rise in the number of reports, as we contacted all charities reminding them about the notifiable events regime, and encouraging them to report. We believe that good notifiable event reporting is a positive sign of good governance, and will continue to ask charities to report as and when there are significant events within their charities."

Of the complaints made to OSCR, eight are alleged incidents that are currently being investigated by the charities involved and other agencies.

Two relate of the notifications relate to the Scottish Child Abuse Inquiry, two have been investigated by police and deemed not proven, one relates to a historical event and three are from cross-border charities.

Since February, OSCR has opened 74 formal inquiries, which amounts to about 30% of all concerns that are raised.

The spokeswoman added: "We are experiencing a gradual increase year on year in the number of inquiries we open, possibly due to an increasing awareness of our regulatory role. Fifteen of these inquiries concern possible issues around safeguarding vulnerable beneficiaries. A further two inquiries have been opened where concerns have been raised regarding sexual misconduct involving staff and volunteers."

The reports to the Charity Commission relate to 179 charities – 158 are registered with the commission, with others registered with Scot Charity Regulator (OSCR) or exempt from registration.

The regulator confirmed that it received 620 safeguarding related reports in April and May 2018, compared to 196 during the same period in 2017.

The commission established a temporary safeguarding taskforce in February, in response to the revelations of misconduct by Oxfam staff in Haiti. The taskforce has been managing and handling increased serious incident reports, and undertaking a review of historic serious incident and whistleblowing reports on safeguarding issues.

A total of 734 new cases relating to safeguarding concerns have been opened since the Oxfam sexual misconduct scandal broke.

The group is also evaluating 5,501 incidents it received between 1 April 2014 and 20 February 2018, and said it has completed its analysis in 95 per cent of the cases.

Of those incidents, 3,000 related to potential criminal behaviour, all of which were reported to the relevant authorities.

A spokesman said: “The taskforce has been undertaking a deep dive of its records of serious incident reports on safeguarding matters to identify any gaps in full and frank disclosure by charities, and to establish whether appropriate follow-up actions were taken by charities, including whether incidents were reported to other primary regulators or agencies.

“This has required the team to analyse a total of 5,501 serious incidents reported to the commission between 1 April 2014 and 20 February 2018. 5,238 or 95% of the relevant records reports have now been analysed. 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 unreported criminality.”

Once the work of the taskforce has concluded, the commission will publish a report setting out the key findings and lessons for charities.