Employment news

Charity Commission “highly critical” of Oxfam’s poor safeguarding culture

The Charity Commission has criticised Oxfam GB’s culture and safeguarding procedures as repeatedly falling below expectations, missing opportunities to address problems, and being too concerned about its reputation and relationships with donors.

Its findings have been informed by an independent review being carried out for Oxfam, which shared its findings with the regulator earlier this year. 

The Commission, whose report concludes its statutory inquiry into Oxfam, had issued an “official warning” and made a direction requiring trustees to provide regular updates to the Commission on its progress. Oxfam has accepted the Commission’s “very uncomfortable” findings.

The statutory inquiry started in February 2018 when the Times newspaper published articles about how Oxfam had handled allegations of sexual misconduct in Haiti in 2011. Although four members of Oxfam’s staff were fired and three more resigned at the time, the Commission said Oxfam withheld key information and that the scale and seriousness of the incidents were not made public until the Times leaked a copy of Oxfam’s internal report.

The Charity Commission has also criticised Oxfam for its ongoing approach to safeguarding since the Haiti scandal. The regulator says that when it looked at the wider issue of safeguarding in Oxfam it found “systemic weaknesses”.  This was largely due to the charity not adequately resourcing its safeguarding function.

The Commission has also told Oxfam to address weaknesses in its charity shops’ audit processes. The findings from an independent review revealed that 80 per cent of safeguarding allegations and incidents involve volunteers. However nearly 10 per cent of shops audited did not have required documents and risk assessments in place.

Following the departure of Oxfam’s chief executive and his deputy the new CEO, Danny Sriskandarajah has promised “systematic and cultural changes”. Oxfam has made a significant investment in its safeguarding team and has provided training across the organisation. Other recommendations, arising from an independent HR review carried out in 2017, are now being taken forward.