Charities could be sued over coronavirus safeguarding failings, conference told

19 Oct 2020 News

Charities could face legal action from beneficiaries placed at risk during the coronavirus crisis, the Muslim Women’s Network (MWN) UK has warned.

Speaking at the NPC Ignites conference last week, Shaista Gohir, co-chair of MWN, said that the influx of new volunteers during the pandemic may include people who want to exploit people helped by charities.

Gohir also talked about the pressure on resources as a result of Covid-19, and said that the number of counselling sessions provided by MWN had doubled compared with the same time last year.

‘We are going to have a big problem on our hands’

Talking about the importance of volunteer management during the pandemic, and the recent increase in the number of volunteers offering help to charities, Gohir said: “Everyone is saying that there is a big resource out there.

“You have got lots of vulnerable people and you have got lots of volunteers. Unfortunately, there will be people out there ready to use this to their advantage and exploit people.

“If these volunteers are not managed properly, we are going to have a big problem on our hands. Particularly if some charities take their eye off the ball and think ‘Let’s utilise them and cut corners in terms of safeguarding’.

“Then you expose a vulnerable person, and then they come back to your charity and complain and say, ‘You put me at risk, I’m suing you’, basically.”

Concerns

Gohir added that most new volunteers “mean really well, and a lot of them probably are safe.

“But all of them will not be safe, and some concerns have come into our helpline. We need to keep an eye on that.”

Gohir said that, as a result of Covid-19, waiting lists for help at MWN had got longer, and demand for counselling sessions had doubled, compared with last year.

The number of calls to the charity’s helpline had gone up 7%, she said.

Plea to funders

She also praised the charity’s funders, and called on foundations to make current reforms permanent.

Gohir said: “All of our funders have been fantastic. They have all said, ‘You can use your funding flexibly, you can use it for core costs’.

“And I wish funders would have said that much earlier, years ago.

“I do funding applications and you don’t know which ones are going to be successful. When they come through you think ‘I have got to juggle now and I have got to ask permission to move categories’. You are forever doing that.

“So it would be easier if it was more core, more flexible. I am glad the flexibility is there, but my plea is that that approach remains. It will make our lives much easier.”

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