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Farrer & Co | Safeguarding is non-negotiable for the international aid sector and domestic charities

It has been something of a busy month in the world of international and national safeguarding.

This year, major charities including Oxfam have been placed in the global spotlight, after it was alleged that certain aid worker employees had routinely abused vulnerable victims in crisis hit parts of the world. 

These revelations reinforced the urgent need for safeguarding improvements by the international aid sector and domestic charities – and below we highlight how that call is being answered. 

We are also delighted that Farrer & Co’s continuing reputation as a leading adviser in this field has been recognised, as senior associate Adele Eastman has been invited to join the cross-sector Safeguarding Programme Group, which will oversee the implementation of new safeguarding measures for domestic charities.

International Aid Sector Summit, London

On 18 October, the world’s leading aid organisations gathered at the International Safeguarding Summit in London to confirm their commitment to the prevention of sexual exploitation and abuse.

Demanding concrete commitments from donors, NGOs and other aid organisations, the Secretary for International Trade, Penny Mordaunt stated: Our message to sexual predators using the sector as a cover for their crimes is ‘Your time is up’.” She further announced that The Department for International Development (DFID) and Interpol were launching a pilot of a new system to improve background checks on aid staff.

The pilot project will:

  • target potential “predatory” employees
  • provide advice to employers on international vetting
  • strengthen the criminal databases and vetting systems of national crime agencies around the world, beginning with regional hubs in Africa and Asia, and
  • support the introduction of a ‘Disclosure of Misconduct Scheme’ across the NGO sector, to prevent known perpetrators moving around undetected.

With support from DFID, NGOs will test a passport for aid workers, to prove their identities, provide background information on previous employment, and confirm their vetting status. At least 15 organisations (totaling about 50,000 staff), have already signed up to the scheme.

You can read more about how the pilot scheme will operate here.

Improvements for charity safeguarding in England and Wales

The Minister for Sport and Civil Society, Tracey Crouch MP, has emphasised that safeguarding is “non-negotiable” within the charity sector, and has confirmed that employees, volunteers and charity beneficiaries of charities in England and Wales also stand to be better protected by new safeguarding measures.

With the aim of protecting more people from harm within the charity sector, a dedicated fund of up to £2m will be invested to both improve awareness of safeguarding and incident handling.

The Minister acknowledged the “trusted status” of charities, stating that “communities across the country” benefit from the time and skills of dedicated workers and volunteers.

Charity Commission publishes updated safeguarding guidance for charities and trustees

In a separate move, it was announced on 25 October that The Charity Commission has published updated safeguarding guidance in an effort to help charity trustees understand their duties, in a single concise and easy-to-use resource.

The Commission’s aim is to ensure that charities have up-to-date safeguarding policies and properly report serious incidents to the regulator. 

The regulator’s emphasis on the importance of safeguarding predates the revelations in national newspapers in February 2018 about failures to protect beneficiaries in international aid organisations but has no doubt been given additional impetus by further concerns that have emerged since, and the nature and level of debate around the issue.

Please see our Charity Finance article published in May 2018 on How to bring your safeguarding up to scratch.

If you would like to discuss any safeguarding matters relating to your organisation, please contact David Smellie, or your usual contact within the Safeguarding Unit.

This publication is a general summary of the law. It should not replace legal advice tailored to your specific circumstances.

© Farrer & Co LLP, October 2018

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