Save the Children UK’s culture – ‘Serious weaknesses’ and ‘serious failings’ identified

The Charity Commission has recently published an awaited report, following a statutory Inquiry commenced in 2018, into Save the Children UK’s response to sexual misconduct complaints against two former senior executives made in 2012 and 2015.

The Inquiry was commissioned following the charity coming under intense public scrutiny about how it handled, reported and responded to allegations against Justin Forsyth, its former CEO, and Brendan Cox, a former policy and advocacy director.

The report criticises numerous aspects of the charity’s response to the allegations, including:

  • Failures in the way that the charity dealt with complaints about behaviour at its head office;
  • The way in which the charity responded to media reports about the allegations which were stated to be ‘unduly defensive’, creating the impression that the charity was seeking to play down the seriousness of the allegations and did not deal responsibly and openly with the relevant issues;
  • Inconsistencies between information reported to the Charity Commission and the information reflected in public statements;
  • The failure of the charity to fully inform its trustee Board about the allegations and provide the full board of trustees with a written copy of an external review in 2015.

The report highlights the importance of treating complainants with the seriousness and respect that they merit, in addition to the higher standard to which charities are often held in respect of their conduct. All organisations (and charitable organisations in particular) should take note of the findings and criticisms when assessing their own work place culture, behaviours modelled by those in senior leadership positions and their processes for handling complaints.


David Milton, Partner, BLM

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