New inquiry into Save the Children over handling of misconduct claims

An investigation has been launched into Save the Children over concerns about charity's handling of allegations of misconduct and harassment against senior members of staff.

The Charity Commission said it had opened a statutory inquiry into the how allegations of misconduct in 2012 and 2015 were dealt with and whether they were fully disclosed to the regulator.

The probe will consider the response to claims such as those made against the charity's former chief executive Justin Forsyth, who faced three complaints of misconduct by female members of staff, and Brendan Cox, husband of the murdered Labour MP, Jo Cox.

The commission said it was concerned whether the charity adequately reported the full extent and nature of allegations in 2015/16, when it demanded to see the findings of an independent review and was assured by trustees its recommendations were being acted upon.

Save the Children's decision-making since the allegations emerged in February this year, particularly over its "public position", was also a concern, the regulator added.

The commission will also examine whether charity trustees "fully, frankly and accurately" disclosed serious incidents when they were spoken to again in February.

Michelle Russell, director of investigations and enforcement at the Charity Commission said: "This inquiry centres specifically on how the charity handled complaints in 2012 and 2015 about senior members of staff, and how the charity responded to and managed public and media scrutiny of those events in 2018.

"We have questions that must be answered, and we need to hold the charity formally accountable for providing them in a clear and timely manner.

"Opening a formal investigation does not necessarily mean that we have concluded that there has been wrongdoing by the trustees of The Save the Children Fund. However, we do have questions that must be answered, and we need to hold the charity formally accountable for providing them in a clear and timely manner."

Earlier this year, it emerged that between April 2016 and March 2017, Save the Children had 31 allegations of sexual misconduct - 10 of which were referred to the police.

A leaked 2015 report from the charity suggested that its chairman Sir Alan Parker's "very close" relationship with Mr Forsyth, who left the charity in 2016, may have affected how he responded to complaints.

In 2015, Mr Forsyth apologised unreservedly to the three women and he quit his role as deputy executive director of Unicef when the allegations resurfaced in February this year.

Meanwhile, Mr Cox, who was Save the Children's chief strategist in 2015, admitted that he made "mistakes" and behaved in a way that caused some women "hurt and offence" when he was working at Save the Children.

Cox resigned from the charity in September 2015, amid the allegations of inappropriate behaviour towards women, but at the time denied that was the reason he quit.

The commission said it will publish a report once it has concluded the inquiry.

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