The Charity Commission has published the outcome of an inquiry into the Royal National Institute of Blind People (RNIB).
The report finds that young people in schools and residential homes suffered harm and distress following failings at a residential school for visually impaired children and young people with complex learning and physical needs. It highlights that this is just the latest example, following on from scandals involving Oxfam and Save the Children.
Tragically the issues lying behind these failings are all too familiar:
- Issues were not properly addressed when they arose
- Trustees failed to act strongly enough in response to issues that arose.
The chief executive of the Charity Commission, Helen Stephenson, commented that:
“A catalogue of serious failings were allowed to occur because the charity’s governance was simply too weak for the trustees in charge to do the job that beneficiaries needed them to do.”
It is obviously difficult for trustees when allegations of this sort arise, but it is essential that they take action. In recent months we have worked with a number of charities on safeguarding issues. By carrying out short, focussed investigations we were able to get to the core of the concerns that the charities had within a couple of weeks. This enabled the charities to gain a clear picture of what happened and take appropriate action – resolving resulting HR issues, briefing trustees, informing the Charity Commission and so on. We believe that swift action in order to gain clarity is essential in responding to most concerns. The sooner something is done, the better.
Effective governance is not just about organisation, policies and procedures. It is also about the mindset of people. And it is about helping executives, staff and especially trustees to develop the confidence to speak out and take action when they see something is going wrong.
Let’s hope that charities start to take action when issues arise, rather than leaving it for the Charity Commission to have to uncover.
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