As a society, we put a great deal of trust, faith, and responsibility in the hands of charitable institutions to advocate, protect, care, and support those who are vulnerable or disabled. But that trust has been significantly eroded over the past few years following several child abuse scandals. In the wake of the horrific allegations of sexual exploitation of children in Haiti by members of Oxfam staff, another large top tier charity, the Royal National Institute for the Blind, is being investigated following an allegation of “sexually abusive practice”.
In the first week of April 2018, several media outlets broke the shocking news of the accusation of abuse at Royal National Institute for the Blind’s (RNIB) Pears Centre for Specialist Learning near Coventry, for children who are blind or have impaired vision. According to the Charity Commission, it was aware of a “serious safeguarding incident” in March 2018 at the flagship Pears Centre. This follows a series of grave incidents relating to management in 2017 – these are not believed to be of a sexually abusive nature, according to the Daily Telegraph.
The Pears Centre, was rated as “outstanding” by Ofsted in 2013, but by 2017, the Ofsted report highlighted concerns around safeguarding, stating is was “ineffective”.
The Response of the RNIB
Following the reports of alleged abuse, the Charity Commission launched a statutory inquiry into the RNIB and its subsidiary RNIB Charity. Sally Harvey, who was the chief executive of the RNIB stood down as the Charity Commission commenced their investigation, and a spokesperson stated the organisation was aware of "one allegation of potentially abusive practice at the RNIB Pears Centre". Eleanor Southwood, the RNIB chair stated, ““We take this extremely seriously and we have a plan that will support the children first and foremost. I am profoundly sorry that we have let down a group of children whose families have entrusted them to our care”.
Safeguarding now a top priority for UK charities
The number of charities and other institutions rocked by allegations of abuse is now unthinkably high. The damage to the reputations of some of our largest charitable house-hold names has been considerable, so much so that Oxfam alone has lost 7,000 donors, since news of their scandal was made public. So, there is little doubt that the scandals are hitting their reputations and pockets.
In April, Save the Children was also added to the list of organisations being added to the list of those being investigated by the Charity Commission. As a response to the rising tide of concerns regarding how charities are ensuring the safety of those they serve, and their staff, in February 2018, 22 charities signed a collective pledge to improve how they manage safeguarding. The signatories of the pledge were:
- ActionAid UK
- BBC Media Action
- Care International UK
- Christian Aid
- Concern Worldwide UK
- Global Citizen
- Islamic Relief UK
- Mercy Corps Europe
- Muslim Aid
- Oxfam GB
- Plan International UK
- Practical Action
- Save the Children UK
- Start Network
- Scotland’s International Development Alliance
- Unicef UK
- World Vision UK
According to the statement issued with the pledge, its aim is to ensure that charitable organisations improve their systems for referencing volunteers and staff members, to ensure that anyone who has "people found to have abused their power or behaved inappropriately are not re-employed in the sector".
Seeking compensation if you have been affected by sexual abuse as a child
No form of sexual, emotional and physical abuse should be tolerated. It is the duty of the organisation, whether it is a charity, hospital, care home, school, boarding school, church or other religious organisation or any other institution, whose care you are in to keep you safe from any form of abuse, whether physical or psychological.
If as a child, you, a family member, or someone you know is currently or has in the past been affected by sexual abuse by someone who was in a position of responsibility, you may be able to claim financial compensation. Compensation won’t undo the damage done, but it can go a long way to helping you to seek the psychological assistance and other resources you need to deal with what has happened to you, allowing you to move on with your life in the best way possible.
At IBB, our personal injury team has the expertise and knowledge to advise and represent you if you wish to seek compensation for sexual abuse. To talk about how we might be able to help, please phone us on 0333 123 9099, email us at email@example.com or fill in our contact form. Any discussions you have with us will be in the strictest of confidence.