The recent media reports of abuses associated with charities working in the international aid sector has brought into sharp focus how charities deal with concerns raised in their industry relating to safeguarding failures and other forms of wrongdoing.
Issues such as bullying, harassment, or sexual misconduct are just a few of the many forms of wrongdoing which charities are vulnerable to.
Charities work with people who may be vulnerable to abuse because of their age, health or physical or mental capabilities. The public expect the highest standards of governance from charities. The legal obligation of all charity trustees is to act with due diligence and care and in the best interests of their charity.
Because of the nature of the work carried out in the charity sector charity trustees should make sure that they create a safe environment for staff, beneficiaries and volunteers. It is vital to develop a culture that enables anyone to report concerns, whilst making sure that those concerns are dealt with appropriately and in a sensitive manner.
In the aftermath of the recent reports of abuses in the charity sector, the charity commission's deputy chief executive David Holdsworth said: "Charities and dedicated, hard-working aid workers undertake vital, lifesaving work in some of the most difficult circumstances across the world.
"However, the issues revealed in recent days are shocking and unacceptable. It is important that we take this urgent step to ensure that these matters can be dealt with fully and robustly."
Charities can begin to achieve this by following some key recommendations:
- Produce a comprehensive whistleblowing policy whereby the charity’s expectations about speaking up in relation to any form of wrongdoing is made crystal clear
- Ensure that the charity’s policies and procedures are effectively applied in practice throughout the organisation
- Encourage transparency and shared accountability by ensuring that all concerns raised in the charity are forwarded to key senior representatives
- Review the policies and procedures at least once every 12 months and again each time a serious concern has been raised in the charity
- Ensure there is comprehensive information about how to raise whistleblowing concerns at the induction stage for new volunteers, beneficiaries and staff.
- Ensure all staff and volunteers receive regular training
- Information on how to raise concerns should be promoted across the charity and should be easily accessible on the charity intranet.
- Provide a safe and supportive environment for raising concerns. Many employees may not feel comfortable raising concerns with their internal line-management. Charities should therefore include both internal and external reporting avenues for staff to raise their concerns.
External whistleblowing service providers can provide a safe and supportive environment for volunteers and staff to raise concerns. If you would like further information about implementation of an independent external whistleblowing service to enhance your charities fight against the dangers of wrongdoing please follow this link, or alternatively, please contact Sean McAuley, the SeeHearSpeakUp whistleblowing manager by dialing direct on +44 (0) 1224 049449.