Former Save the Children CEO quit after inappropriate behaviour

21 Feb 2018 News

Justin Forsyth

Credit: Russell Watkins/Department for International Development CC

Justin Forsyth, a former chief executive of Save the Children, received three complaints about inappropriate behaviour towards female staff before he left the charity.

In a statement, Save the Children confirmed that concerns were raised about inappropriate behaviour and comments by Forsyth in 2011 and 2015, who was chief executive at the time. A review into the handling of the matter at that time found that “HR processes have not been followed in every aspect”.

This news follows reports earlier this week that Brendan Cox, widow of murdered MP Jo Cox and former Save the Children employee, left the charity after being accused of sexual assault while he working at the charity in 2015.

Save the Children said that in each of the cases raised against Forsyth, the chair instructed HR to manage the process in conjunction with an independent trustee. Two trustees carried out two separate investigations into a total of three complaints made by three female employees.

It said that both reviews resulted in “unreserved apologies” from Forsyth, and that “all the parties agreed to this.” It said Forysth apologised to the women and that “at that time the matters were closed.”

But, the statement added that concerns were then raised with trustees that “matters should not have been left as they were and that a further review was required.” This review found that HR process had not been followed in every aspect.

‘I apologise unreservedly’

Forsyth was Save the Children UK’s chief executive for five years before leaving in 2016. He is now deputy executive director at Unicef.

In a statement he said: “I made some personal mistakes during my time at Save the Children".

"I recognise that on a few occasions I had unsuitable and thoughtless conversations with colleagues, which I now know caused offence and hurt.

"When this was brought to my attention on two separate occasions, I apologised unreservedly to the three colleagues involved.

“My apologies were accepted and I had thought the issue closed many years ago."

Kevin Watkins, current chief executive of Save the Children, who joined the charity in June 2016, announced last week that he was commissioning a “root and branch review of the organisational culture”. He said this would include examining the systems and processes that protect and preserve the safety and wellbeing of all staff, and addressing any behavioural challenges among senior leadership.

A spokesperson for Save the Children said: “The review will commence by the end of this week and report in June 2018.  The final report will be published, shared with the Charity Commission and made available to government and every single member of staff.

“We apologise for any pain these matters have caused and sincerely hope that the complainants feel able to help us with the review in the coming weeks. This is so that we can better support our skilled and highly valued staff as they help change the lives of millions of children around the world every day.”

Unicef taking 'appropriate action'

Unicef, where Forsyth currently works, said it was discussing the matter with Forsyth and Save the Children so it can take “appropriate action”.

It said in a statement: “We are aware of media reports related to past complaints against Justin Forsyth about events that occurred before he joined Unicef.  We welcome Mr Forsyth’s decision to come forward and acknowledge past mistakes. We are discussing this matter with Mr Forsyth and his former employer so we can take appropriate action.”

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