Theresa May hits out at 'horrific' behaviour of Oxfam staff over sex scandal

19 February 2018, 11:42

Theresa May has hit out at the "horrific" behaviour of staff at Oxfam and called on charities to reveal their safeguarding arrangements to the Government.

The Prime Minister spoke out about the sex scandal engulfing the charity after it released an internal report into alleged abuse by aid workers in Haiti in the aftermath of a devastating earthquake in 2010.

The 2011 investigation concluded that other charities should be warned about "problem staff", as several workers accused of abuse went on to take up other posts in the aid sector.

It details four dismissals and three resignations in the wake of the allegations, which included the use of prostitutes on charity property, sexual exploitation of employees, fraud, negligence and nepotism.

Suspicions that some of the sex workers were underage "cannot be ruled out", the document said.

Mrs May was asked the about the scandal during a visit to a school in west London, telling journalists: "Well, first of all in relation to the Oxfam issue, the behaviour that we've now discovered was horrific.

"It was far below the standards that we expect for the charities and the NGOs that we're working with.

"And I understand there have been further revelations today which show that actually there was physical intimidation of witnesses.

"This is absolutely horrific.

"This is exactly the problem that we see which means that all too often people don't feel able to come forward to report what has happened to them, the behaviour that they've been on the receiving end of."

The revelations have put Oxfam's government funding under threat and prompted the Charity Commission to launch a statutory inquiry.

On Friday, the charity announced it would stop bidding for funding until ministers are satisfied it can meet the "high standards" expected.

The Government spent £13.4bn on foreign aid last year, which is 0.7% of GDP. That figure includes almost £31.7m for Oxfam.

The charity also relies heavily on public donations, with £115m of its total income coming from donations, legacies and Disasters Emergency Committee appeals. Retail sales contributed more than £90m.

Oxfam released the report after a leaked copy was obtained by The Times, whose initial report sparked the crisis.

In a statement, it said: "We are making this exceptional publication because we want to be as transparent as possible about the decisions we made during this particular investigation and in recognition of the breach of trust that has been caused.

"We hope this also contributes to rebuilding trust with those who support our work."

The report makes no reference to any direct interaction with the women in Haiti who were affected by the alleged abuse.

In a statement, Oxfam said: "Oxfam GB will discuss these cases with the Charity Commission as part of the Charity Commission inquiry to work out what else it can do in relation to the victims."