Save the Children faces UK watchdog inquiry over sex harassment response

Questions over charity's handling of sexual harassment claims by staff
By Serena Chaudhry
|employmentlawtoday.com|Last Updated: 04/11/2018
A Save the Children NGO vehicle drive passes on the street in Maiduguri, Nigeria March 2, 2018. REUTERS/Afolabi Sotunde

LONDON (Thomson Reuters Foundation) -- Save the Children will be investigated over its response to allegations of sexual misconduct and harassment against senior staff, Britain's charity watchdog said on Wednesday, following a major sex abuse scandal which engulfed the global aid sector.

The Charity Commission said the inquiry would focus on the charity's handling of claims such as those made against ex-chief executive Justin Forsyth and former policy chief Brendan Cox.

The watchdog will examine how misconduct allegations in 2012 and 2015 were dealt with and whether they were fully disclosed to the body which regulates charities in England and Wales.

"We do have questions that must be answered, and we need to hold the charity formally accountable for providing them in a clear and timely manner," said Michelle Russell, director of investigations and enforcement at the Charity Commission.

Save the Children and its former executive Forsyth both apologised in February for his inappropriate behaviour towards female staff and the charity said procedures had not been properly followed in reviewing three complaints against him.

Meanwhile Cox said that he made mistakes and behaved in a manner that caused some women hurt and offence when he was working at Save the Children. He resigned in September 2015.

The international aid organisation said in a statement it would cooperate with the inquiry by the Charity Commission.

"We are committed to working with the Charity Commission to establish a truthful and accurate account of events and the charity's response," said Peter Bennett-Jones, the chair of Save the Children's UK board of trustees.

"If mistakes were made, we will act swiftly and decisively to address them."

Charities in the aid sector were put under the spotlight earlier this year after an expose by The Times newspaper revealed that some Oxfam staff paid for sex with prostitutes in Haiti after the country's 2010 earthquake.

They have since pledged to overhaul their approach to dealing with allegations of sexual misconduct and harassment.

An exclusive survey by the Thomson Reuters Foundation in February found more than 120 staff from leading global charities were fired or lost their jobs in 2017 over sexual misconduct. 

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