An Oxfam whistleblower has told how she begged senior staff and the charities watchdog to act about sexual abuse allegations at the scandal-hit charity.
Helen Evans, Oxfam’s former global head of safeguarding, also detailed three new allegations made against Oxfam staff overseas in a single day.
She told Channel 4 News: “There was 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, and that was three allegations in one day.”
It comes as the charity watchdog prepares to begin its inquiry into Oxfam, with the commission’s deputy chief executive David Holdsworth saying “the issues revealed in recent days are shocking and unacceptable.”
Her claims came as the Daily Mail reported that 123 alleged incidents of sexual harassment have been investigated in Oxfam shops during a nine-year period.
Oxfam has faced intense criticism over its handling of sex allegations, including the use of prostitutes by workers in Haiti in 2011.
The charity has issued an “unreserved apology” to the Government, donors, supporters and the people of Haiti following the revelations.
Announcing her resignation as deputy chief executive on Monday, Penny Lawrence said she took full responsibility for what had happened on her watch and was sorry for the “harm and distress” it had caused supporters, as the charity faced a battle to “rebuild the public trust” following crisis talks with the Government over future funding.
Watchdog the Charity Commission is now due to begin its inquiry into Oxfam following the aid worker sex scandal.
The watchdog said Oxfam may not have “fully and frankly disclosed material details about the allegations at the time in 2011” and it also had concerns about its handling of the incidents since, and the impact that these have both had on public trust and confidence.
Meanwhile Oxfam’s chief executive Mark Goldring said he would not stand down unless the charity’s board told him they had lost faith in his leadership.
The 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.”
Mr Goldring apologised to Ms Evans over the way her concerns were handled.
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.”
An Oxfam spokesman told the Evening Standard: “Since January 2013 we have been providing specialist training for our managers on Safeguarding and Security.
“We continue to roll this out amongst our shops’ staff including our shop managers since 2015. This resulted in a dramatic improvement in the ability of shop teams to recognise potential safeguarding issues, and an increase in the number of reported cases.”