Charity & Commercial Law expert and Head of Girlings’ Charity Law team, Caroline Armitage looks at the lessons Trustees can learn from Oxfam.
The Oxfam scandal illustrates that, whatever their size, charities must demonstrate how their charitable purpose drives everything they do, especially how they respond when things go wrong. In its risk management guidance (CC26) the Charity Commission spells out that it is the duty of Trustees to protect reputation. So what lessons can Trustees take from Oxfam?
Protecting people and safeguarding responsibilities must be a governance priority. Failure to take reasonable steps to protect people can never be excused by the difficult context in which a charity is working or by the importance of the cause. Charities must embed an effective culture of keeping people safe which identifies, deters and tackles behaviours which minimise or ignore harm to people and cover up or downplay failures. There should be a clear process for raising concerns and people who raise concerns should always be taken seriously and treated with respect.
Trustees need to recognise the adversarial nature of the system, and embed a positive culture underpinned by robust processes and polices. They must also have effective plans in place to deal with a crisis when it hits as it inevitably will.
Girlings Charity team provides advice to charities, social enterprises and not for profit organisations working in the voluntary and third sector. The team includes legal experts in Charity & Commercial, Employment, Commercial Property, Contested Probate and Legacies.
For further details of our services for the third sector, contact Caroline Armitage.