Charity Commission lifts statutory supervision of Oxfam GB after ‘significant progress’

25 Feb 2021 News

The Charity Commission has lifted statutory supervision measures that were placed on Oxfam GB when it concluded its formal investigation 20 months ago. 

Today the regulator concludes that Oxfam has made “significant progress” to improve its culture and approach to keeping people safe. 

Oxfam has been under closer regulatory oversight since June 2019 to make sure that it implemented the regulator’s recommendations. 

In 2019 the Commission’s inquiry report found that Oxfam had missed opportunities to address problems and that, while it had made promises to strengthen safeguarding, it had not provided enough resources to follow through on its commitments. 

The Commission had opened a statutory inquiry in February 2018 after the Times newspaper published a number of articles about how Oxfam had handled allegations of sexual misconduct in Haiti a number of years earlier. 

In 2011 four members of Oxfam’s staff in Haiti were fired and three, including the country director, resigned in the wake of allegations of bullying and harassment. 

Most of the 100 recommendations complete

Today the Commission said that while safeguarding is “never complete”, an independent review shows that most of the 100 actions that were needed in order to improve safeguarding are now complete with only limited areas in which the charity needs to undertake further work. 

This means that the period of statutory supervision can come to an end, although the Commission cautioned against complacency. 

Helen Stephenson, chief executive of the Charity Commission, said: “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.”

Oxfam GB: We have worked hard to learn from the mistakes

Oxfam GB said it was pleased that the Commission and independent assessors recognised the progress it had made. 

Danny Sriskandarajah, chief executive at Oxfam GB, said: “All forms of sexual misconduct are abhorrent and an affront to everything we stand for.

“We have worked hard to learn from the mistakes of the past and ensure that our vital work to save and improve lives takes place in as safe an environment as possible in a way that is consistent with our values.

“I am acutely aware of our responsibility to those who generously fund our work and to the communities we work with around the world, as well as to our staff and volunteers. I am grateful for the trust they have placed in us as we have embarked on this important journey to become a safer organisation. Today’s announcement is an important milestone in that journey, but I can promise that this is not the end of our efforts.”

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