Statement from Alison Talbot, Partner & Head of National Charities, Winckworth Sherwood, on behalf of former Oxfam GB trustees and senior executives*
“The Charity Commission report has highlighted the seriousness and complexity of safeguarding issues facing Oxfam and other charities working in the aid sector. We hope that its findings will contribute to ongoing improvements in how Oxfam and the sector carry out their vital work to prevent abuse of staff, members of communities and beneficiaries.
As trustees and senior executives, those of us then in office were appalled when in 2011 we found out about the behaviour of some of Oxfam’s staff posted to Haiti. At the time, Oxfam was delivering water to half a million people in Haiti. These members of staff let Oxfam, and our beneficiaries, down badly. We apologise to all those affected.
In 2011, we acted immediately to ensure all of the allegations were urgently investigated by sending out an investigation team. The individuals suspected of breaching Oxfam’s code of conduct were suspended. Four employees were subsequently dismissed once the investigation was concluded, and this was publicised by Oxfam at the time.
We recognise that the Charity Commission has identified weaknesses in the handling of the events in Haiti. We implemented a detailed action plan to address the wider issues identified by the investigation both in Haiti, and across our international programmes. As trustees and senior executives at the time, we were determined to tackle sexual exploitation and abuse, and we established a number of programmes and initiatives to prevent and identify safeguarding issues.
Safeguarding is and remains a huge issue for all charities, and the Commission has pointed out the need for greater resource, more rigorous investigatory procedures, and senior oversight and accountability. We recognise today that our efforts in 2011 and subsequently were insufficient, especially in the light of all of the information available to the Charity Commission in the course of this statutory inquiry.
Safeguarding is fundamental to what Oxfam and other humanitarian agencies have to do. Those caught up in humanitarian disasters must trust the agencies which are there to help them, upon whom their lives may depend. They should be kept safe from all and any abuses.”
Notes to editors
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*Former Oxfam GB trustees and senior executives referenced in the Charity Commission report, whose terms of office covered at least part of the period 2011 to 2018, including: the Chair of Trustees until October 2011; the Chair of Trustees October 2011-October 2017; the CEO until February 2013; the CEO from April 2013 to January 2019; and the Director of Programmes in 2011.