Oxfam workers ‘offered aid for sex’
Former staffer claims rape overseas and abuse in charity shops were ignored
The Oxfam sex scandal has deepened as the British charity’s former head of safeguarding disclosed that teenage charity shop volunteers had been abused and overseas staff had traded aid for sex.
In a series of allegations, Helen Evans accused bosses of ignoring her evidence and pleas for more resources, saying it led to her resignation.
Evans, who spent more than six years with the charity, said overseas staff had been accused of rape and that abuse by shop managers against young volunteers was covered up.
Ten percent of workers in some countries had been sexually assaulted by colleagues or had witnessed abuse, she added.
Earlier, Penny Lawrence, the charity’s deputy chief executive, resigned as the government announced that it would be setting up a unit to investigate sex abuse in the aid sector.Evans claimed 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.
She told Channel 4 News: “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 keep beneficiaries safe?“
The latest allegations emerged amid calls for criminal charges to be brought against Oxfam executives and employees in the UK if they had turned a blind eye to abuse overseas.
Concerns were also raised over Oxfam’s use of public money.
The charity’s board of trustees last night met Penny Mordaunt, the international development secretary, to assure her that it could be trusted with the £32-million of public funding it receives.
Caroline Thomson, the chairman 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.”
Evans claimed that Oxfam shop volunteers as young as 14 had alleged abuse, detailing one case of an adult worker assaulting a child assistant.She said that she was extremely concerned that children were being left alone with volunteers who were not criminal-record checked.
Among 12 allegations of abuse over two years, one involved a shop manager allegedly attempting to force a young volunteer to drop charges against an adult male who was alleged to have carried out an indecent assault.
In Oxfam’s global operation, Evans said that 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".On Sunday, the charity insisted that allegations surrounding the use of prostitutes, some of whom were said to be underage, did not involve “sex for aid”.
Evans said the disclosures about the use of prostitutes in Haiti were “not a surprise”, as she had been informing the Charity Commission of her concerns since 2015.
Mark Goldring, chief executive of Oxfam GB, apologised to Evans on Monday night and said he would resign if asked by the board of trustees.
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.”
Professor Andrew MacLeod, a lawyer and former aid worker, said: “Under the UK child sex tourism laws, if one of these prostitutes was underage, the person has broken the law here. And possibly Oxfam executives have broken the law by aiding, abetting and supporting.”
The Charity Commission said last night it had launched an inquiry.
– © The Daily Telegraph