Charities told to restore trust after aid worker sex scandal

Oxfam continues to deal with the fall-out after claims of sexual misconduct by aid workers
Oxfam continues to deal with the fall-out after claims of sexual misconduct by aid workers

AID charities will on Monday be told to take action to restore trust and improve standards following the sex scandal which engulfed the sector.

Ahead of a London summit, international Development Secretary Penny Mordaunt and the Charity Commission told charities, regulatory bodies and experts that it was a "crucial moment" and "now is the time for action".

Ms Mordaunt has also tasked delegates at the London event to come up with measures to ensure whistleblowers and survivors of exploitation or abuse are given counselling and support, the creation of an independent body to ensure standards and scrutiny, and new standards of vetting and referencing.

Attendees must also set out how they will change culture to tackle power imbalances, encourage reporting of abuse, take allegations more seriously and hold people to account.

NGOs and charities in attendance will sign a joint statement setting out the key principles they will adhere to, and agree a set of practical actions to take forward in an effort to improve standards and restore trust in the sector.

Ms Mordaunt said ahead of the event: "Now is the time for action. The aid sector needs to ensure it is meeting its duty of care to the world's most vulnerable people. It needs to be honest about past mistakes. It must do all it can to win back the trust of the British public.

"This summit is a crucial moment to learn lessons from the past and drive up standards across the sector.

"Today, we begin taking the practical steps to ensure the safety of the people we help is always our first priority and that the British aid sector sets the standard for the rest of the world to follow."

Charity Commission chairwoman Baroness Stowell said: "The recent accounts of sexual exploitation and abuse in the aid sector are deeply distressing. Not only have some aid workers abused the people they were sent to support, but by not exposing and responding to these serious failings properly at the time, charities have betrayed the public's trust in what the word charity actually means.

"I am encouraged to see leaders of international aid agencies coming together at today's summit with a firm commitment to bringing about cultural change in charities and making the protection of people their top priority. The Charity Commission will work constructively with charities to identify practical changes and help make them work.

"But however noble the cause, it will never justify means which fall below basic standards of conduct expected of any organisation. And if we are to restore public trust and the nation's pride in what charities achieve, we have to show that's what we understand."