The charity Save the Children is being investigated by the Charity Commission over how it handled allegations of misconduct and harassment against senior staff members.
The investigation, which began on 4 April, will consider how the charity handled complaints about staff misconduct in 2012 and 2015, whether it fulfilled its duty of care towards its employees and whether it had appropriate standards of workplace conduct and staff safeguarding in place.
Concerns about staff misconduct were first raised to the Charity Commission in 2015-16 when Save the Children informed it about claims of misconduct and harassment by a senior staff member. The regulator also received an anonymous complaint about the charity’s response to further allegations against other employees.
When the 2015 allegations – involving former chief executive Justin Forsyth and former policy director Brendan Cox – came to light in February of this year, Save the Children announced that it would review workplace culture and assess whether the recommendations made by the commission in 2015-16 had been implemented effectively.
Michelle Russell, director of investigations and enforcement at the Charity Commission, said: “This inquiry centres specifically on how the charity handled complaints in 2012 and 2015 about senior members of staff, and how the charity responded to and managed public and media scrutiny of those events in 2018.
“Opening a formal investigation does not necessarily mean that we have concluded that there has been wrongdoing by the trustees of The Save the Children Fund. However, we do have questions that must be answered, and we need to hold the charity formally accountable for providing them in a clear and timely manner.”
In a statement, Save the Children said it would cooperate fully with the investigation and “act swiftly” on any recommendations made.
Peter Bennett-Jones, the chair of Save the Children UK’s board of trustees, commented: “We are unequivocally committed to building a workplace culture based on mutual respect – a culture in which all of our staff feel protected, supported and listened to.
“In February 2018 we established an independent review led by Dr Suzanne Shale, an expert in organisational ethics, aimed at strengthening our workplace culture. With a new leadership team in place we have strengthened of staff protection systems through mandatory training and other measures.
“Save the Children UK has a policy of zero tolerance towards any form of bullying or harassment.”
After the scandal involving allegations of sexual abuse at numerous charities earlier this year, 22 aid organisations signed a letter apologising for their failings and claimed they would do everything to “prevent, detect and eradicate unacceptable behaviour”.
The charities also planned to review their referencing systems to ensure that prospective employers were informed about the behaviour of disgraced workers.