Statement from ShelterBox Chief Executive, Chris Warham
In the light of recent events in the sector, ShelterBox, along with other charities, is undertaking a comprehensive safeguarding review. This has stretched back more than five years to a time when a different Chief Executive and Trustees were in place.
As part of the review we have discovered three incidents of sexual misconduct which happened before 2013, one of which is unproven. These have now been reported to the Charity Commission and are still under investigation.
These incidents did not involve the families we help. They were managed swiftly and effectively at the time through immediate dismissal and resignation but were not reported to the Charity Commission, which we should have done.
We have a code of conduct, safeguarding, protection and whistleblowing policies in place, as well as appropriate training for staff and volunteers.
No incidents have occurred since 2013 which would require reports to the Charity Commission.
To ensure best practice, we intend to commission an external audit of our safeguarding policies and practices.
In the meantime, we will continue to work with the Charity Commission on the reported incidents.
At ShelterBox, we are proud to have safeguarding policies in place designed to protect the families we help, our operational staff and our incredible response team volunteers who travel to disaster areas with us, and the local communities we work with.
We are constantly looking for ways to improve our approach. We test and evaluate all of our aid and services, including our approach to safeguarding and protection.
We put our operational staff and our response team volunteers through ongoing, rigorous training; we are working closely with Rotary International, as well as other partners, who bring a vast understanding of local community needs; and we are constantly reviewing and evaluating our methods to ensure they are doing the best possible job for the people that need them across different disaster situations.
Our safeguarding and protection processes include:
Rigorous recruitment process:
To be able to distribute aid and work in disaster areas with ShelterBox, our operational staff and response team volunteers go through a rigorous recruitment process consisting of a series of interviews and a 10 day on-site course including thorough safeguarding and protection training.
Only those who consistently demonstrate the highest possible standards are able to go on to work with ShelterBox in disaster areas around the world.
Enhanced DBS (Disclosure and Barring Service) checks:
All operational staff and response team volunteers who work to distribute ShelterBox aid in disaster areas have Enhanced DBS checks (or equivalent). These are refreshed every 3 years.
Code of Conduct:
All operational staff and response team volunteers who travel with us to disaster areas sign our code of conduct which outlines the highest standards of ethical and professional standards expected from all operational team members.
This includes a commitment to integrity, truthfulness, dedication and honesty in all actions; to observe local and UK laws; and to not abuse the power or influence afforded by their position over the lives and wellbeing of others.
In all humanitarian activities, our operational staff and response team volunteers must prioritise safety and dignity, avoid causing harm, and promote meaningful access. Accountability, participation and empowerment are equally important and must be taken into account.
We take a number of steps to ensure that our operational staff and response team volunteers are fully supported and able to comply with our code of conduct when in disaster areas.
Wherever possible, we will deploy mixed gender teams. Operational staff and response team volunteers are deployed in pairs who typically stay together for their time away (usually between 2 and 4 weeks).
Our operational teams in disaster areas are also in constant contact with the team at the UK headquarters and behaviours are continually monitored.
Whistle blowing policy:
All staff and volunteers are trained to know how to report any form of wrongdoing they may see or suspect.
We encourage staff to report inappropriate behaviours either to our Executive board, or to take the issue directly to the appropriate organisation or body, e.g. the Police, the Environment Agency, Health and Safety Executive or Social Services Department.
Anyone who travels to a disaster area with ShelterBox also goes through a confidential debrief process that includes direct questions about behaviours in the field and offers an additional chance to discuss and report any concerns.
Working with partners:
We don’t just hold ourselves to high standards, we also strive to ensure any humanitarian organisation we work with also has the same safeguarding approaches.
We robustly check any partner to ensure they and their teams act as we would in the field.
That includes checks before we commit to a partnership and thorough reviews whilst we are in the field, including ensuring anyone who receives our aid is able to flag up any problems or issues they have.
Working with partners is crucial to us distributing aid as effectively as we can, but those charities we partner with must meet Protection Mainstreaming and Core Humanitarian Standards.