Sex claims against foreign aid office staff soar to one a fortnight

Sexual harassment claims against staff at foreign aid office have rocketed to one every two weeks in the last year

  • 26 ‘sexual exploitation, abuse and harassment’ cases were reported in 2019/20
  • Was up from fewer than 5 cases year before, the DfID’s annual report reveals
  • A number of DfID staff members were dismissed or were issued with warnings 
  • It is part of scandal that dragged in the likes of Oxfam and Save The Children

The charity sex abuse scandal spread to Britain’s aid department last night, after it admitted it had investigated a large number of complaints involving its staff.

As part of a scandal that has dragged in the likes of Oxfam and Save The Children, the Department for International Development said 26 ‘sexual exploitation, abuse and harassment’ cases were reported in 2019/20 – one a fortnight.

This was up from fewer than five cases the year before, the ministry’s annual report reveals.

A number of DfID staff members were dismissed or were issued with warnings following complaints.

The report also reveals sex abuse in Britain’s aid charities is getting worse – two years after it emerged that Oxfam staff had used prostitutes in disaster-hit Haiti in 2011. Last year there was a 74 per cent increase in ‘safeguarding’ cases – including sexual abuse – reported by development charities.

The Department for International Development (file image) said 26 ‘sexual exploitation, abuse and harassment’ cases were reported in 2019/20 – one a fortnight

The number of reports rose from 73 in 2017/18 to 260 in 2018/19. By 2019/20 there were no fewer than 452 reports – more than one a day.

Of these, around 60 per cent were sexual exploitation, abuse and harassment cases, 20 per cent were discrimination and harassment, 10 per cent related to physical abuse and the rest were child exploitation. More than a third of those accused faced disciplinary action or were dismissed.

The report said: ‘Since February 2018, DfID has taken a lead in pushing for improved global standards and performance in safeguarding against sexual exploitation and abuse and sexual harassment (SEAH) in the aid sector.’

The report said that DfID ‘continues to hold ourselves to at least the same high standards we expect of our partners’. But it admitted: ‘Internal SEAH cases are categorised as any case where the survivor, or the subject of complaint, is a DfID staff member.

‘DfID concluded 14 cases in 2019/20 where the survivor or subject of complaint was a DfID staff member.

‘In 11 cases the allegations were upheld. In all cases where an investigation concluded that the allegations against a DfID staff member were upheld, disciplinary action was taken up to and including dismissal (fewer than five staff were dismissed and fewer than five were issued warnings).

The ministry’s annual report also reveals sex abuse in Britain’s aid charities is getting worse – two years after it emerged that Oxfam (file image) staff had used prostitutes in disaster-hit Haiti in 2011

‘In some cases, the survivor was a DfID staff member and the subject of complaint was not a DfID staff member. The disciplinary outcome for these cases has not been included in DfID’s Annual Report.’

The department said that it could not be more specific each time it reported ‘fewer than five’.

The annual report listed safeguarding reports from British aid charities, but did not specify where they came from.

It is probable that the complaints refer to abuse abroad, as well as in charity shops on British high streets.

DfID said they do not comment on individual cases, but that all allegations are looked at seriously and that they are investigated promptly and confidentially.

Last night a spokesman for DfID said: ‘Bullying, discrimination and harassment have no place at work. We take all allegations extremely seriously, and investigate them promptly and always in the strictest confidence.’ 

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