Scotland

Aid charity boss says it can be trusted despite confirming child sex cases

Media playback is unsupported on your device
Media captionAlistair Dutton said: "We are doing everything we possibly can to make people in our programmes safe."

A Scottish aid charity which dealt with two child sex cases can be trusted by the public, its boss has told the BBC.

Alistair Dutton, from the Scottish Catholic International Aid Fund (Sciaf), said it was doing all it could to protect those in its project work.

The first case in 2012 involved the alleged rape of a 15-year-old girl by a 45-year-old Burundian man.

The second case in 2016 involved an Ethiopian man accused of sexual misconduct with a boy under 16.

In the 2012 incident the man in question had been a volunteer in a local partner organisation of Sciaf.

The 2016 case involved a junior staff member working in the shared office of Sciaf and its sister UK and Irish aid charities Cafod and Trocaire.

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 Mr Dutton said both incidents were dealt with "decisively" and reassured supporters that the charity had stringent safeguarding procedures.

He said: "I want to reassure our supporters and the general public throughout Scotland that they can trust Sciaf and they can be confident that we are doing everything we possibly can to make people in our programmes safe."

Sciaf has spoken out about the cases amid scrutiny of the UK aid sector after the Oxfam sexual misconduct scandal.

Other charities check records

International Development Minister Alasdair Allan has written to more than 40 organisations which receive funding from the Scottish government asking them to confirm they have robust safeguarding policies in place.

Scotland's charity regulator, the OSCR, has said it expects organisations will be looking back through their records and it wouldn't be surprised if similar cases are reported in the coming weeks and months.

BBC Scotland has contacted many of these charities.

Few were willing to speak on the record but several welcomed the chance to review their safeguarding policies.

Image caption Alasdair Allan has written to charities

First Aid Africa said it had recently revised its process of reporting, making it simpler to escalate any issues.

Another said these recent revelations had prompted plans to provide free training for partner organisations.

No further incidents have so far been revealed by these charities.

But there was a suggestion of concern that recent scandals will put the public off supporting charities.

One charity manager said: "What is worrying about these allegations is if Scotland's other international development efforts are tarred with the same brush.

"It would be really sad if people become far less willing to volunteer."

An OSCR spokesperson said: "We were satisfied with the reports received from SCIAF which showed that they had reacted effectively when the reported problems were uncovered.

" We have not received additional reports on the back of the recent media coverage.

"We sent a reminder to every charity about notifying us of significant incidents and we encourage anyone with information that may be relevant to get in contact with us."

Oxfam has been accused of concealing the findings of an inquiry into claims staff used prostitutes while delivering aid in Haiti in 2011

Mr Dutton 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.

It is understood that the case had been dropped.

'I take personal responsibility'

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 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.

During an interview with BBC Radio Scotland's Good Morning Scotland programme, Mr Dutton said he took personal responsibility for the aid programmes that Sciaf carried out.

He explained: "Every case of sexual abuse is a personal tragedy for the person involved and I personally take responsibility for safeguarding within our programmes.

"Wherever anybody is harmed in our programmes I would apologise profusely for that.

"I am appalled that it happened, but I am confident we are doing everything we can to internally to minimise the risk of that happening and to act decisively and quickly whenever we find out about a case."

Mr Dutton said the charity commissioned a safeguarding expert to conduct an evaluation of its practices.

A report recommended some minor improvements, he added.

Mr Dutton went on: "Sciaf helps about a quarter of a million people directly every year, that makes a massive difference for some of the poorest and most vulnerable people in the world.

"In over 50 years we have had two cases reported to us relating to sexual misconduct and both were dealt with decisively."

More on this story

Related Internet links

The BBC is not responsible for the content of external Internet sites