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Photo: Nicolai Durbaum, Unsplash

5 key points from the government’s response to the IDC's safeguarding inquiry

19 December 2018

Last week, the International Development Select Committee (IDC) released the government’s response [PDF] to the recent “Sexual abuse and exploitation in the aid sector” inquiry, and with it a letter from the chair, Stephen Twigg, asking for further clarification on aspects of the Department for International Development (DFID)’s safeguarding work.

The IDC report contained recommendations for the government to consider and called for urgent action to “confront the horror of sexual exploitation and abuse in the aid sector.” The government’s response, published last Thursday, agreed in part with the IDC report but queried some key aspects of the committee's recommendations. 

Here are the main points to note: 

Keeping victims and survivors at the heart of reporting and better funding for the Charity Commission

Both the IDC and the government agreed that the “extreme vulnerability of victims” should be at the heart of any reporting mechanisms and in the short to medium term we are likely to see the number of reported cases increase as people become more confident to come forwards, though in the long term we would expect the number of cases to decline. 

The government also agreed that the Charity Commission should be fully-funded to deal with safeguarding.

The international register of aid workers 

The IDC had recommended that DFID create an international register of aid workers that was managed independently, but DFID suggested this this approach isn’t currently feasible. However, DFID highlighted the multiple pilot schemes that it believes will have the similar desired outcome of deterring and preventing “predators” from entering the sector. This included a “passport” scheme for aid workers that provides relevant background information and vetting status, and a new “Disclosure of Misconduct” scheme that will prevent predators from moving around the NGO sector undetected.

Should there be an international aid ombudsman? 

DFID partially agreed with the IDC that a separate “international aid ombudsman” should be set up to deal with safeguarding issues. DFID said that the Dutch government had commissioned a recent study into this but the findings were published too late to be considered in time for the safeguarding summit. This recommendation will be considered once the study has been examined.

Who should be responsible for budgeting for safeguarding? 

The IDC recommendation that DFID should be responsible for safeguarding policies of other government departments that also spend UK official development assistance (ODA) was contested. “DFID can promote coherence and full coordination across ODA-spending departments, but we cannot ensure it happens given that each department is accountable for its own ODA spend,” said the response. 

DFID also disagreed with the IDC on the budgetary responsibility of safeguarding, stating that the department “expects DFID partners to integrate safeguarding in their core practice and should budget for it accordingly” and “if specific safeguarding risks are identified at a programme level which require additional safeguarding measures, these costs can also be submitted transparently as part of a programme bid.” This was in response to the IDC recommendation that DFID should ensure that safeguarding is a line in every budget for programmes that carry safeguarding risks. Although DFID partially agreed with the recommendation, it felt it would not be able to ensure safeguarding is a line in every implementing partner’s budget.

Further clarifications now needed from DFID

In response to the government’s reply, Stephen Twigg has written [PDF] to the secretary of state asking for further clarity on a number of issues and stating that “the Committee is intent on following progress in this area to prevent the past pattern of reforms that seemed to run out of steam once the immediate scandal had abated.” He is seeking clarification on issues including what DFID’s leadership role in the OECD working group on safeguarding will mean in practice, the establishment of a Resource and Support Hub, as well as DFID’s ability to carry out robust safeguarding investigations. 

Find out about Bond's safeguarding work, with links to tools and resources, here.

About the author

Franziska Schwarz
Bond

Franziska Schwarz is Bond’s sector safeguarding adviser. Franziska supports the work of the four Safeguarding Working Groups set up in conjunction with DFID and the Charity Commission after the Safeguarding Summit.