Charity Commission 'warned about lack of focus on safeguarding'

15 Feb 2018 News

Sir Stephen Bubb, former chief executive of Acevo, on Channel 4 News

Sir Stephen Bubb, the former chief executive of Acevo, has claimed he warned the Charity Commission years ago that it needed to put more resources into safeguarding. 

Speaking on Channel 4 News last night, following accusations of safeguarding failures at Oxfam in 2011, Bubb said he had personally told William Shawcross, after he became chair of the regulator in 2012, that “resources were in the wrong place”, when the Commission was considering how to manage resources “against a background of cuts”. 

Bubb criticised the regulator for its focus on terrorism, saying there were a “huge number of investigations into Muslim charities”. 

“I felt at that stage they were not putting enough resource into safeguarding and whistleblowing,” he said. 

Bubb said it was now up to Matt Hancock, the culture secretary, who is responsible for charities and the regulator, to provide more funding immediately. 

Rob Wilson, former minister for civil society, was also on the programme and defended the regulator, but admitted it needed more funding. 

“I didn’t detect in my time as charities minister a problem with them not dealing with serious matters of this sort brought to their attention,” he said. 

“In my view to do the job it needs to do as a regulator it will still need further funding,” he said, “and that further funding, I believe, can only come from one area – there must be some contribution from charities themselves, and I would prefer to see the large charities take a lead on that.”

The Charity Commission held a meeting with Oxfam yesterday and will publish an update on its statutory inquiry later today.

MPs and a former Commission investigator have also questioned the regulator's handling of the case

On Monday Civil Society News asked the Charity Commission whether it had asked Oxfam to send it the final report of its investigation in Haiti in 2011, but the regulator has not answered the question.

A spokeswoman for the regulator said: "We have made clear that our approach to this matter would have been different had the full details that have been reported in the media this week been disclosed to us at the time."

Charity's partners 'concerned'

The John Lewis Foundation has said it is “deeply concerned” by the scandal which has enveloped its charity partner Oxfam and said it will be seeking reassurances in regards to a project it is currently undertaking in Bangladesh.

In a statement issued today, a spokeswoman for the foundation said it would “rigorously review” its work with Oxfam in light of the scandal, but said funding for the project is not immediately threatened.

The statement in full said: “The John Lewis Foundation is deeply concerned by the events that have recently come to light. We will rigorously review and seek reassurances from Oxfam about the project we are currently undertaking with them in Bangladesh.”

According to the Foundation’s last set of published accounts, it agreed to support a two year project with Oxfam GB to “form a partnership to deliver a project to empower and support women living and working in urban communities in Bangladesh”.

The accounts show that up to the year ending 31 January 2017, the Foundation spent £795,125 on charitable activities. In terms of its partnership with Oxfam, the Foundation spent £250,000.

A spokesman for Visa, another of Oxfam’s corporate partners, said the organisation is “engaged” with the charity. “At Visa, we are committed to the highest standards of professional and personal conduct, and we expect the same from our partners.

“We are engaged with Oxfam to understand what steps have been taken to address staff misconduct and ensure alignment with our own standards and values."

The Big Lottery Fund, which has given Oxfam funding over the last three years have also said they are reviewing their relationships with the charity in the wake of the allegations.

A spokeswoman for the Big Lottery Fund said: “These are serious allegations and we have contacted Oxfam to seek assurances regarding its safeguarding practices.

“We will be monitoring the situation closely and are awaiting further details of the Charity Commission’s statutory inquiry.”

Unilever's chief executive has signalled his support for the charity. 

Michael Eavis defends Oxfam

The founder of the Glastonbury music festival has been reported as defending Oxfam.

According to a report in the BBC today, Eavis said Glastonbury had raised over £6m for the charity in the past and would continue to do so. He said the charity was “wonderful” and that “a few dodgy people” should not be allowed to detract from its work.

Speaking to CNN in the United States, Bill Gates also defend Oxfam, saying the charity does “phenomenal work” and that “they’ve seen something’s wrong and they’re moving aggressively to stop it”.

Celebrity supporter Stephen Fry has called on the charity to “puts its house in order”, with a spokeswoman for the actor saying Fry is “waiting to see” how the charity reacts to this “terrible and disturbing scandal”.

Senegalese singer and Oxfam global ambassador Baaba Maal has become the second of the charity’s global ambassadors, after actress Minnie Driver, to announce that he is cutting ties with the charity.

Maal told BBC Newsnight that would be standing down from his role after six years. He said he found the abuse claims “disgusting and heartbreaking” and said he was “disassociating” himself from the charity “immediately”.

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