Save the Children UK Chief Quits In Latest Blow to Scandal-Hit Charity Sector

Save the Children UK Chief Quits In Latest Blow to Scandal-Hit Charity Sector
A Save The Children sign is pictured outside a high street branch one of its stores in London on Feb. 17, 2018. (Justin Tallis/AFP/Getty Images)

LONDON—The chairman of Save the Children UK has resigned following staff complaints that he wasn’t serious about tackling sexual harassment, the charity said.

Peter Bennett-Jones will leave next month, in the latest blow to the scandal-hit sector,  after investigators upheld complaints about remarks he made during a review of workplace culture at the charity, which has been criticized for its handling of sexual-misconduct reports.

An independent investigation found he had made remarks that “could have been perceived as being at odds with the organisation’s response to a review of its working culture,” the charity said in a statement on Dec. 21.

Charitable organizations have seen a number of high-profile departures since allegations earlier this year that Oxfam staff used sex workers in Haiti after the 2010 earthquake, a revelation that kicked off a series of sexual-misconduct scandals. Mark Goldring has said he will step down as Oxfam’s chief executive at the end of this year.

Last week, the U.N. refugee agency (UNHCR) said it sacked Ali Khamis, a British aid worker, for having sexual relations with a woman he employed as a domestic worker in Uganda. UNHCR spokeswoman Cecile Pouilly said in emailed comments the group found no evidence that Khamis had sexually exploited or abused the woman, but that he had “failed to uphold the standards expected of an international civil servant.”

Save The Children ordered an independent review of its workplace culture earlier this year after it was criticized for its handling of complaints against former Chief Executive Justin Forsyth and ex-policy chief Brendan Cox from 2012 to 2015.

The panel found most staff hadn’t faced inappropriate conduct while working at the charity, but 28 percent reported in a staff survey that they had experienced either discrimination or harassment within the past three years. Many of the issues related to being ignored or belittled, with a small number saying they had suffered unwanted sexual remarks and innuendo.

A survey by the Thomson Reuters Foundation found more than 120 staff from leading global charities were fired or lost their jobs in 2017 over sexual misconduct.

The United Nations has been rocked by dozens of cases since early 2017 as the #MeToo campaign has emboldened women to speak out against their abusers.

By Lin Taylor