Save the Children stops bidding for government funding

 In news, updates

Save the Children UK will stop bidding for new funding from the Department for International Development (DfID), the charity has announced.

According to Save the Children’s latest accounts, DfID provided £159m of funding to the charity in 2016 out of its total income of £405m.

Chief executive Kevin Watkins said today that the charity has volunteered to temporarily withdraw from bids for new DfID funding, which international development secretary Penny Mordaunt has accepted.

This follows the launch earlier this month of a Charity Commission inquiry into the organisation’s handling of sexual harassment allegations against two senior executives in 2012 and 2015.

Watkins said the suspension of bids would last until Mordaunt was satisfied that the charity was upholding the standards expected by DfID and that the charity’s current programmes funded by the department would continue.

Watkins said in a letter to Mordaunt: “While I greatly regret both the circumstances that have brought us to this juncture and the consequences for children, I fully recognise our responsibility to meet the high standards that you rightly expect.

“I want to underscore how seriously we take the sexual harassment cases reported at our headquarters in 2012 and 2015.

“We are cooperating fully with the Charity Commission’s inquiry to ensure that a complete and truthful account of these cases emerges.

“I speak for everyone at Save the Children when I say that we are absolutely committed to building back trust in our organisation – from the children and communities that we serve, to our donors and supporters and UK taxpayers.”

He added: “At a time when so many children are being robbed of their futures by poverty, preventable disease, hunger and war, it is more vital than ever that we stand by their side.”

DfID response

Mordaunt said: “Following the launch of a statutory inquiry by the Charity Commission, Save the Children UK has decided to withdraw from bidding for new UK government funding until DfID is satisfied that they can meet the high standards we expect of all our partners.

“I am committed to driving up standards across the aid sector and I expect every organisation that we work with to have rigorous reporting and complaints mechanisms in place to protect beneficiaries and employees alike.”

Save the Children International chair Sir Alan Parker, who was chair of Save the Children UK while the allegations took place, resigned last week.

There have been calls for Watkins, who was a trustee but not yet chief executive when the alleged incidents to place, to resign as well. However, Watkins has said he intends to remain in post.

In February, Oxfam, which received £31.7m worth of funding from DfID in 2016/17, announced it would stop withdraw from bidding for government funding until its own safeguarding issued have been resolved.

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