Johanna Duran Gomez, director of Fundación Mujer y Futuro, at a mobile clinic focused on reproductive health services and women’s rights in Columbia. Photo: Elizabeth Stevens / Oxfam.

Johanna, a woman in an Oxfam-branded jacket, faces the camera as she stands outside a mobile reproductive health clinic in Columbia.
Johanna, a woman in an Oxfam-branded jacket, faces the camera as she stands outside a mobile reproductive health clinic in Columbia.

Keeping people safe

Keeping people safe is a vital part of our work worldwide and we are committed to continually learning in order to make Oxfam a safer place for all.

From constantly improving safeguarding policies, to installing solar lights that make refugee camps more secure, to training our staff around the world - we are committed to creating a safer Oxfam. In recent years, Oxfam has made substantial changes to the way that we approach safeguarding. But safeguarding work is never complete, and we recognise there is so much more to do.

Safeguarding in our shops

Oxfam shops are community hubs - welcoming environments where many different people from a broad range of backgrounds collaborate as a team and raise money to fight poverty around the world.

Oxfam takes safeguarding extremely seriously. We have systems in place to protect our shop staff and volunteers from harm, and encourage them to recognise and report issues and allegations of concern.

How we are keeping people safe

We have continued to strengthen our approach to safeguarding by increasing the number of safeguarding specialist staff. We now have dedicated safeguarding focal points in every country where Oxfam is present, who work with staff and communities. We have been adapting to Covid-19 too - creating online safeguarding training tools to ensure that staff, volunteers, and partners are provided with effective support and training during this period.

But we won't stop there, we recognise that there is so much more to do.

We believe that only by being open and transparent about the problem can we tackle it – no organisation can ever say it is free from the risk of abuse and harassment, but we will continue to be accountable in how we manage these risks and respond swiftly when incidents do occur; striving to provide survivors with the right support at every stage.

We know that living our values is every bit as important as what we achieve, and we must not lose sight of that.

Explore the sections below to see what we are doing differently

Ensuring survivors can report abuse in confidence – and that they get the support they need – is paramount. We want survivors, past and present, to continue to come forward and report allegations and we know this can be painful and traumatic. We’ve endeavoured to make the process more accessible and to be survivor-centred in our approach and will continue to seek improvements.

Specialist safeguarding staff are also working on the ground where they are most needed – for example, we have two safeguarding specialist humanitarian support personnel who, when travel is not restricted, are deployed into countries to provide additional safeguarding support. We also have at least one dedicated safeguarding focal point in place in every country where Oxfam works.

We have established clear procedures to ensure a more consistent, survivor-centred approach to respond to cases, demystifying the reporting process and building trust. These procedures also include doing all we can to protect the confidentiality and safety of survivors and whistle-blowers as well as providing medical, health, social, emotional and other forms of support for survivors.

We also worked with a Survivor Reference Group, who advised Oxfam International’s Independent Commission, to help us learn and improve what we do. Oxfam GB has since created a survivor centred policy and completed a study of reparations for survivors.

We have improved our understanding and management of the risks posed by our work, in order to ensure that all those affected by our humanitarian and development programmes can participate more safely. The approach, known as Safe Programming, includes training and toolkits for staff and partners as well as conducting research within communities so that we are more accountable.

In response to Covid-19 restrictions, we created online safeguarding training tools to ensure that staff, volunteers, and partners were provided with effective support and training during this period.

We helped establish a Global Safeguarding Shared Service with all Oxfam affiliates - networking safeguarding specialists from across the Oxfam confederation. We have introduced a new electronic record-keeping system for all cases. This secure central database is used by all Oxfam affiliates to build information and evidence of potential crimes. We’re also working together to ensure everyone follows the same procedures.

Our policies in reporting potential crimes to police and local authorities are clearer and have been developed with guidance from survivors.

We are working with the wider aid sector to stop perpetrators from moving on unchecked to other roles and organisations. Oxfam is leading work with other agencies to better share information about offenders. Here at Oxfam GB, we have implemented a new, central referencing system, so that only approved managers can provide job references for people leaving the organisation.

We know that tackling abuse and exploitation in our programmes is not enough. We must live our values throughout the organisation by examining our own attitudes and behaviours and by changing power structures to prevent the abuse of power which is often at the heart of sexual exploitation and abuse cases.

As part of our commitment to improve our culture and ensure that all staff understand and share our values, our recruitment processes and interviews now include mandatory questions on values, safeguarding and feminist principles. We have also introduced initiatives to increase awareness and understanding amongst staff of how to challenge negative behaviours and misconduct, including concerns of bullying and harassment.

Safeguarding training is mandatory for Oxfam GB's 10,000 staff around the world, and all staff and volunteers sign a code of conduct when starting work with us.

In all our shops across the UK, enhanced DBS checks are put in place for all shop managers, deputy managers and volunteers who supervise young people. Right now all volunteers complete a disclosure form as a minimum, which asks them questions such as whether they have any spent convictions, are on a barred list, or have been cautioned for violent or sexual offences.

The Oxfam confederation has a Global Director of Safeguarding. Oxfam GB’s trustees have oversight of safeguarding across the organisation, through the work of the Safeguarding & Ethics Committee, led by Annie Hudson and of which our Chair of Trustees, Charles Gurassa, is a member.

We are committed to transparency and will continue to report regularly on our progress. A breakdown of completed Oxfam GB safeguarding cases is provided in our annual report. Every six months, we publish a report on all safeguarding cases we have completed across the Oxfam confederation. The Oxfam GB Council of Trustees considers reports on safeguarding issues at every meeting, with a more detailed review of trends every six months. We also have clear policies on reporting serious incidents to donors.

We're committed to sharing information openly, ensuring public reputation is never put before the safety of people we are responsible for.

The Charity Commission

We have been working closely with the charity regulators for England and Wales. Learn more about our work with the Charity Commission.

There is no ultimate end point for safeguarding whereby an organisation can say the work is complete, rather an acknowledgement there is always a need to learn, adapt and develop…”

Report on Oxfam’s GB’s progress on safeguarding, as part of Charity Commission inquiry.

Independent Commission Report

An independent commission of safeguarding experts has reviewed our culture and working practices globally. Read more about the Independent Commission report.