The Charity Commission has opened 440 cases after receiving more than over 500 reports of serious incidents relating to safeguarding since scandal began with revelations about Oxfam in February.
In February and March the regulator received 532 reports of serious incidents relating to safeguarding – triple the number it received for the same period last year, when it had 176 reports.
The Commission launched an interim taskforce in February to manage the increase in reports and undertake a review of historic safeguarding
It has been actively encouraging charities to report incidents sooner, rather than later.
Some 219 of the incidents reported have come from the 33 charities funded by the Department for International Aid and Development. Of these 127 reports are historic, meaning they should have been reported to the Commission sooner.
DfID wrote to 179 charities it funds earlier this year to seek assurances that they would report incidents.
The Commission said the incidents cover a “wide spectrum” and that some cases related to risk of harm, and not an incident.
It has said it is now prioritising the cases.
‘Deep dive’ of Commission records
The Commission has also embarked on a “deep dive” of 5,501 reports received between 1 April 2014 and 20 February 2018 to identify any gaps.
It also intends to make sure that charities have undertaken the appropriate follow-up action.
So far the regulator has assessed around 3,300 reports, most of which related to incidents reported in bulk by a small number of large charities.
Just over 2,000 incidents involve allegations of potential criminal behaviour and Commission has found that just one incident was not reported to the authorities at the time. It has now been reported to the police.
It has also not found any incidents requiring immediate action.
Once the review has concluded it will publish a report.
‘Must act as a wake-up call for charities’
The Commission has also submitted written evidence to the International Development Committee’s inquiry into sexual exploitation and abuse in the aid sector.
In the foreword, Helen Stephenson, chief executive of the Commission said: “Recent events must act as a wakeup call for all charities – in international development and domestically. This is about more than simply policies, processes and reporting mechanisms. It is also about values and culture.”
Its evidence said that: “The Commission has been concerned for quite some time that safeguarding is a bigger issue in the charitable sector than the sector appreciates.”
It highlighted that it refreshed its guidance in September 2017 and that it has issued regulatory alerts for charities.
The Commission said that in December 2017 it wrote to Bond, the umbrella body for aid charities, and the Disasters Emergency Committee about its “concern that safeguarding incidents in aid charities may be more widespread than was being acknowledge”.
It also told MPs that it is a “more proactive and robust regulator” than it was in 2011 and that it would “now seek further proactive engagement and follow up” if a charity made a similar report to the one that Oxfam made in 2011.
The Commission also explained to MPs how it works with other agencies including the police and DfID.