Oxfam can once again bid for UK aid funding for its international work, having been largely stopped from doing so since 2018 due to abuse allegations.
The new Minister for Development Andrew Mitchell announced the news on Thursday.
The Charity Commission announced a statutory inquiry into Oxfam in February 2018, following safeguarding allegations in Haiti. Oxfam voluntarily withdrew from bidding for new UK aid and the pause has remained in place since apart from a short period in 2021, after which it returned while an external investigation was carried out into safeguarding allegations in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC).
Since then, the charity has improved its safeguarding systems in DRC, with measures taken including the appointment of a national safeguarding advisor, a new network of safeguarding experts who work across their offices and respond to concerns, and training for staff on how to report a concern.
These are in addition to other actions taken by Oxfam since 2018 to improve the charity’s overall safeguarding approach. This has included investing in and expanding its safeguarding function and increasing oversight by appointing its first Ethics and Integrity Director to uphold standards across the organisation. It has also introduced mandatory safeguarding training for staff working around the world.
UK Minister for Development Andrew Mitchell said:
“Oxfam has made significant improvements to how it deals with safeguarding, including introducing more effective preventative measures.
“However, we are not complacent. We want to encourage reporting and a robust but sensitive response in every case, ensuring more reporting and better responses to cases. All providers of aid must have practices in place to make sure that safeguarding is always put first and foremost in planning and operations.”
Since 2018 the UK has put more steps in place to tackle abuse in the sector and improve safeguarding standards. This includes a tougher screening system, which allows charities to share data about staff misconduct and stop perpetrators moving from job-to-job, working with Interpol and the UK’s ACRO Criminal Record Office on Project Soteria to improve criminal records checks and promote information sharing between aid and law enforcement agencies, and a £10 million Resource and Support Hub to support aid organisations.