The union representing more than 300 Oxfam staff is seeking reassurances its ‘blameless’ members are safe after the sexual misconduct allegations which have emerged over the last week.
Unite wants to know steps are being taken to restore the charity’s reputation following revelations some of its senior aid workers used prostitutes after the disaster relief operation in Haiti in 2010.
Since the original claims there have been fresh allegations of sexual misconduct.
The Oxford-based charity’s deputy chief executive Penny Lawrence has resigned over claims it concealed the findings of an inquiry into the use of the prostitutes.
Oxfordshire councillor Helen Evans, who worked as Oxfam’s Global Head of Safeguarding between 2012 and 2015, said she had tried to speak to the senior leadership team several times about the lack of safeguarding resources to prevent sexual misconduct.
Speaking to Channel 4 News, she said: “It was a continual fight to try and get more resources. I felt that our failure to adequately resource [our safeguarding teams] was putting people at risk.”
She said that one of the allegations involved an adult and child volunteer in the UK, adding: “That troubled me because I knew that Oxfam was not conducting the criminal record checks that it needed to conduct.”
The charity has since said it has put in place further safeguarding measures as well as a ‘whistleblowing’ hotline.
This is in addition to an internal investigation in 2011 immediately after it became aware of the Haiti situation.
In an official statement last week, an Oxfam spokesperson said: “Our primary aim was always to root out and take action against those involved and we publicly announced, including to media, both the investigation and the action we took as a result.
“Four members of staff were dismissed as a result of the investigation and three, including the country director, resigned before the end of the investigation.”
The Charity Commission has launched a statutory inquiry into Oxfam but no details have yet been released about the extent of this.
National officer for Unite, which represents staff at the headquarters and in Oxfam shops, Siobhan Endean said: “Oxfam staff are dedicated to delivering aid to some of the poorest people in the world and the vast majority are entirely innocent of any wrongdoing. It would be a disastrous if recent events led people to stop donating to Oxfam and other charities.”
Oxfam is Britain’s fifth largest charity and receives £300million a year in government funds and public donations.
International development secretary Penny Mordaunt has threatened funding will be withdrawn unless the charity sorts the issue out properly.