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Oxfam scandal deepens with allegations of ‘sex for aid’ and abuse in charity shops 

The sexual misconduct scandal at Oxfam deepened on Monday night as the charity’s former head of safeguarding revealed teenage volunteers at UK shops had been abused and overseas staff had traded aid for sex.

In some of the most explosive allegations yet against the charity, Helen Evans accused the her bosses of ignoring her evidence and her pleas for more resources, forcing her to quit in despair. 

Ms Evans said that staff had been accused of rape and that sexual abuse by shop managers in UK stores against young volunteers was covered up. 

Ten per cent of staff in some countries had been sexually assaulted by colleagues or witnessed abuse, she added.

Her allegations emerged just hours after Penny Lawrence, the charity’s deputy chief executive, quit over the scandal and the Government announced that it would be launching a unit to investigate sex abuse in the aid sector. 

Penny Lawrence became the first executive to quit over the growing scandal 

Credit:
Oxfam

Any suggestion that the the furore was subsiding was quashed by Ms Evans’ new revelations which included that volunteers in Britain were not subjected to criminal checks and that her complaints were dismissed by Oxfam bosses, the Charity Commission and the Home Office. 

Speaking on Channel 4 News she said: “Behind Oxfam there are thousands of committed staff. They put their lives at risk every day. In terms of the senior leadership team I think they need to look back and say, did they do everything they needed to to keen beneficiaries safe.”

The latest allegations emerged as there were calls for criminal charges to be brought against Oxfam executives and staff in the UK if they had turned a blind eye to abuse overseas. Concerns were also raised over Oxfam’s use of public money.

Oxfam executives met with the International Development Secretary Penny Mordaunt on Monday evening in an attempt to assure the minister that the charity could be trusted with the £32m of public finding it receives.

Caroline Thomson, Oxfam chair of trustees, said: “We recognise that we have some way to go to persuade her that we have the right moral leadership to be fully entrusted with public money.”

However her claims were called into question less than an hour later as Ms Evans came forward with a number of claims including that volunteers as young as 14 in Oxfam shops in the UK had alleged abuse. 

She detailed one case of an adult volunteer assaulting a child volunteer and said that she was extremely concerned that children were being left along with volunteers who were not being criminal record checked.

There were 12 allegations of abuse over two years and one involved a shop manager allegedly attempting to force a young volunteer to drop charges against an adult male volunteer who was said to have assaulted them.

Chief Executive of Oxfam GB Mark Goldring said he would quit if asked to by the board of trustees  

Furthermore, in the global operation in the course of one day in 2015 she received reports of “one of a woman being coerced to have sex in a humanitarian response by another aid worker, another case where a woman had been coerced in exchange for aid and another one where it had come to our attention where a member of staff had been struck off for sexual abuse and hadn’t disclosed that and we were then concerned about what he might be doing.”

It comes just 24 hours after the charity insisted that it had not detailed the allegations surrounding the use of prostitutes, some of whom were said to be underage, because they did not involve ‘sex for aid’. 

Ms Evans said that the latest revelations about the use of prostitutes in Haiti are “not a surprise” as she has been informing the charity commission of her concerns since 2015. 

Mark Goldring, Chief Executive of Oxfam GB, said last night apologised to Ms Evans and said that he would resign if the board of trustees asked him to. 

He told Channel 4 News: “I certainly apologise for not acting fast enough, I think we did take them seriously and we responded on many different fronts – the records checking was one of them, training was another, the promotion of the helpline was another – she did some great work.

“What I recognise now, with the severity of issues as they have emerged, is that we should have resourced that team up faster as we now have, indeed, done.”

A spokesperson for the Charity Commission said that in 2015: “We took the concerns Ms Evans raised very seriously and engaged with Oxfam on a formal regulatory basis to address them. This included meeting with the charity and requesting detailed information about its safeguarding procedures. Indeed Ms Evans acknowledged our initial response at the time; stating that she appreciated “the time taken by the Charity Commission to look into safeguarding concerns”.”

They said that she did not raise concerns on specific incidents and they met her again in 2017 and “opened a formal regulatory compliance case with the charity which has been ongoing since that time”. 

It came after Professor Andrew MacLeod, a  lawyer and former aid worker, said: “Under the UK child sex tourism laws, if one of these prostitute was underage, then the person has broken the law here. And possibly Oxfam executives have broken the law by aiding, abetting and supporting.”

He said that if the charity “were treating this seriously” they would hand a dossier on the Haiti allegations to police, adding: “Until they start putting people in jail nothing will change.”

But Penny Mourdant, the International Development Secretary, announced instead that she had asked for the crimes to be investigated in the home countries of the aid workers. 

Though she has written to all charities asking for assurances over their safeguarding procedures she has not announced any investigation into the Haiti allegations. 

Ms Lawrence on Monday became the first executive to resign, admitting that the charity were made aware of allegations relating to prostitute use by Roland van Hauwermeiren and his team in Chad in 2006. 

Five years later he was posted to Haiti and became embroiled in a scandal where senior aid workers were accused of using prostitutes at orgies, some of whom were allegedly underage. 

Four members of staff were dismissed as a result of Oxfam’s 2011 investigation into the claims and three, including Mr van Hauwermeiren, were allowed to resign before it concluded. 

Article Source : http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/2018/02/12/oxfam-scandal-deepens-allegations-sex-aid-abuse-charity-shops/

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