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Nick Ansell/PA Wire
UK News

Christian charities caught up in Oxfam scandal

by Press Association

The Scottish Catholic International Aid Fund (SCIAF) has confirmed it has dealt with two cases of alleged sexual misconduct involving children.

SCIAF said one case involved a junior staff member for a joint organisation with other UK and Irish Catholic charities in Ethiopia, and the other a volunteer in Burundi.

The Burundi incident involved the alleged rape in 2012 of a 15-year-old girl by a 45-year-old Burundian man who volunteered for a local partner organisation for SCIAF.

The Ethiopian man accused in the other incident worked in the shared office of SCIAF and its sister UK and Irish aid charities Catholic international development charity (CAFOD) and Trocaire in 2016 when he was accused of sexual misconduct with a boy aged under 16.

Neither of the alleged victims were being helped by SCIAF and the incidents did not take place during any of the charity's projects.

SCIAF director Alistair Dutton said both incidents were dealt with "decisively" and reassured supporters that the charity has stringent safeguarding procedures.

He said the Burundi man was reported to police, arrested and suspended as a volunteer, and the local charity partner co-operated with the police investigation and provided counselling and legal advice to the girl's family. The case is since believed to have been dropped.

The 2016 incident was reported to the charity by police and the man was suspended immediately and has since been dismissed for gross misconduct following an internal investigation. The criminal case is continuing.

The Christian charity said the Burundi partner organisation did not have a child protection policy in 2012 but has since put one in place and extra training has been given to staff in both locations, with general child protection policies updated.

SCIAF provides grants to partners to develop child protection policies which stipulate that all safeguarding cases must be reported to SCIAF with evidence to show that appropriate action is being taken.

"SCIAF is doing everything we can to minimise the risk of these events and to deal with them appropriately," Mr Dutton said.

"We commissioned a well-known and respected safeguarding expert in the sector to conduct an external evaluation for us. He reviewed all our child protection policies including these two cases and commended us for our policies but also the way we dealt with the cases."

Meanwhile, a CAFOD employee accused of sexual misconduct when he worked for Oxfam in Haiti has been dismissed from his current role, the charity said.

Director Chris Bain said the employee was sacked after the charity received a reference from Oxfam which confirmed the allegations against him.

CAFOD said it was unaware of the allegations, which relate to the man's time working for Oxfam in Haiti in 2011, until it was contacted recently by The Times newspaper.

The scandal has prompted an "unreserved apology" from Oxfam to the Government, donors, supporters and the people of Haiti over its handling of incidents including the alleged use of prostitutes by workers, in the earthquake-hit country.

The Catholic overseas development charity put the staff member on leave while they investigated before dismissing him on Wednesday.

It received two references when the employee first applied for the role in 2014, Mr Bain said.

The candidate did not disclose the circumstances of his departure from Oxfam at this time - a breach of Cafod's code of behaviour, he added.

CAFOD said there had been no formal complaints of misconduct against the employee during his time with them.

Mr Bain said the charity had a "zero-tolerance" approach to misconduct, adding: "Our mission to support people to live life to the fullest gives us a moral duty to their care - we will not let them down."

CAFOD has investigated two cases of sexual misconduct allegations against employees overseas since 2010.

The first investigation yielded no evidence to require action, while in the second case the employee was dismissed, it said.

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