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Published by Scottish Council for Voluntary Organisations

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Regulator loosens reign on Oxfam

This news post is about 3 years old

Commission acknowledges progress

Oxfam has had its statutory supervision lifted by the Charity Commission.

A report published today confirms that Oxfam GB has responded positively to the commission’s scrutiny.

The charity has implemented wide-ranging changes to its organisational culture, and strengthened its approach, resources and processes, such that people served or employed by the charity are now better protected against abuse, exploitation, and other forms of harm.

But the Commission stresseds that effective safeguarding is “never complete” and that systems and processes, however good, must be underpinned by leaders and senior managers remaining vigilant and continuing to place the highest priority on keeping people safe.

The statutory inquiry into the charity, which concluded in June 2019, found the charity’s governance and culture with regard to safeguarding had repeatedly fallen below standards expected, and that it tolerated poor behaviour and failed to meet promises made on safeguarding.

At the time, the commission said that “significant cultural and systemic change” was required to ensure people who came into contact with the charity were safe from harm.

It followed an initial story in The Times alleging widespread sexual abuse and exploitation by the charity’s staff in Haiti.

Helen Stephenson, chief executive of the Charity Commission, said the Commission’s inquiry had been the catalyst for significant progress at Oxfam GB, but warned against complacency.

“Oxfam GB’s leadership has done much work since 2019 to respond to our inquiry, and learn lessons from the charity’s past mistakes and failings.

“That effort, overseen and scrutinised by the Commission, means that Oxfam GB is now providing a safer environment for all who come into contact with it. But safeguarding is never ‘done’.

“As our report makes clear, while Oxfam has made significant progress, its leaders must ensure that the charity’s living culture – the spoken and unspoken expectations placed on all staff and all volunteers – continues to promote an environment that keeps people safe into the future.”

Jamie Livingstone, head of Oxfam Scotland, said: “While we are pleased Oxfam’s progress has been recognised by our regulator, there is absolutely no room for complacency, and this is just one further step on a longer safeguarding journey. 

“The sad reality, as the commission recognises, is that any organisation of Oxfam’s size and reach will encounter safeguarding challenges.

We must remain vigilant and continue to build a culture where everyone we work with can feel comfortable calling out any abuse of power, trusting that the appropriate action will be taken and the needs and wishes of survivors prioritised.

“A culture of truly living our values, holding ourselves to account and respecting the experience of others.”