Sunday 9 December 2018

Oxfam scandal deepens with claims of 'sex for aid' and abuse in shops

Penny Lawrence
Penny Lawrence

Christopher Hope

The sexual misconduct scandal at Oxfam deepened last 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 her bosses of ignoring her evidence and her pleas for more resources, forcing her to quit in despair.

Ms Evans said staff had been accused of rape and that sexual abuse by shop managers in UK stores against young volunteers was covered up. Some 10pc 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 it would be launching a unit to investigate sex abuse in the aid sector.

Any suggestion the furore was subsiding was quashed by Ms Evans's 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 keep 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 yesterday in an attempt to assure the minister that the charity could be trusted with the £32m (€36m) of public funding 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 she was extremely concerned that children were being left alone 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.

Furthermore, in the global operation in the course of one day in 2015, she received reports 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 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'.

Irish Independent

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