Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 25 September 2020

Ban lifted on Save the Children seeking UK government grants

The charity has made changes in wake of 2018 complaints against then chief exec

Justin Forsyth, the former chief executive of Save the Children, was the subject of harassment complaints. Reuters 
Justin Forsyth, the former chief executive of Save the Children, was the subject of harassment complaints. Reuters 

A leading children’s’ charity that lost almost £100 million in government support after allegations of sexual harassment will be allowed funding again, the British government has announced.

Save the Children will be able to apply for government aid after withdrawing from the scheme two years ago.

The charity was badly damaged by allegations of misconduct after its former chief executive Justin Forsyth resigned in 2018 for making “unsuitable and thoughtless” comments to three young female members of staff.

Shortly afterwards, the charity voluntarily withdrew from tendering for UK government aid contracts worth £91m a year and the Charity Commission regulator launched an inquiry into its handling of the allegations.

Save the Children, which was one of the largest recipients of UK aid funding, is an international charity involved in 120 countries that seeks to improve the lives of millions of children and provides emergency aid in war and natural disasters.

The funding issue had a serious impact on its work but after the charity significantly improved its safety standards it has been cleared for the funding again, the Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office (FCDO) said in a statement.

“We take a zero tolerance approach to sexual abuse, harassment and exploitation, and we are taking action to stamp it out of the aid sector to protect the most vulnerable people,” said Dominic Raab, the Foreign Secretary.

“We have robust measures in place to make sure any charities receiving UK aid have strong safeguarding policies, and it remains a top priority in the new Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office.”

Following the merger this month of the Foreign Office and Department for International Development (Dfid), Mr Raab added that the FCDO would maintain the “high safeguarding standards” set by Dfid and take action against charities breaching guidelines.

A report in March this year by the Charity Commission found that Save the Children sought “to downplay the seriousness of the allegations and was not dealing responsibly and openly” with the issues when they emerged in 2018.

It accused the organisation of ignoring the bullying and harassment accusations made by several women against Mr Forsyth and Brendan Cox, another senior executive who resigned following allegations of inappropriate behaviour.

But the report found that it had made significant improvements in preventing harassment, introducing whistle-blowing policies that allow anonymous staff complaints and no further action was required.

The FCDO said the charity had taken “significant steps” to improve its approach to safeguarding, introducing a raft of new standards and increasing the size of its safeguarding team.

The charity also signed up to the new Misconduct Disclosure Scheme, which following abuse allegation in other charities is designed to stop perpetrators of sexual abuse from moving around the aid sector undetected by allowing employers to share misconduct data.

Kevin Watkins, chief executive of Save the Children UK, welcomed Mr Raab’s announcement. “Save the Children has accepted and acted on all the Charity Commission’s recommendations. We will continue to strive for a working culture built on kindness, respect and fairness,” he said.

Updated: September 11, 2020 02:07 PM

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