Tearfund’s commitment to keeping people safe

5 May 2018

A news article has been published today in the Scottish edition of The Times, covering a historical safeguarding incident that took place in a project in Malawi in July 2009. Tearfund is deeply saddened by the incident.

The project was run by a partner organisation Tearfund was working with at the time and was partially funded by a grant from the Scottish Government.

The incident involved an employee of the partner organisation who abused a 16 year old girl within that organisation’s care. When a Tearfund staff member in Malawi was notified of the allegation of abuse, even though the allegation did not involve a Tearfund staff member, we ensured our safeguarding procedures we had at the time were followed. A Tearfund Child Protection Officer also intervened to ensure that swift and appropriate action was taken.

This included providing care for the individual who was harmed, and the partner organisation launching an investigation. The individual was provided counselling and moved away from the project. The incident was reported to the Malawi Police, and the partner organisation dismissed their staff member. Tearfund ceased working with this partner organisation in 2010.

We remain committed to the safeguarding and protection of everyone we work with, including beneficiaries, volunteers, Tearfund staff and the staff of partner organisations.

20 April 2018

We remain deeply saddened and distressed by the devastating news of safeguarding and misconduct cases in the international development sector. Sadly even as a Christian organisation we are not immune, but our solemn commitment is to investigate and deal with all such incidents appropriately. Since the beginning of the year we have carried out a ten year review to ensure this has happened. At the same time we are increasing our investment into safeguarding to better protect all those we and our partners work with.

19 March 2018

Tearfund is committed to the highest standards of safeguarding. We are joining together with other NGOs to ensure we are all working to improve the effectiveness of our safeguarding. You can read more about this here.

As a matter of course, Tearfund's safeguarding and whistleblowing policies are reviewed every three years and are updated accordingly.

We constantly seek to understand and model best practice in global standards for safeguarding and whistleblowing. Our Safeguarding policy has recently been reviewed and re-approved by our Board of Trustees in February 2018 as part of our regular three year review cycle. We have taken this opportunity to carefully scrutinise our safeguarding and whistleblowing policies and ensure we are maintaining the highest standards.

We have challenged ourselves to consider how we can improve the application of our policies in practice. Consequently, Tearfund’s leadership have agreed:

  • We are providing refresher safeguarding and whistleblowing training for all staff, volunteers and all representatives. We are also setting up a programme to develop the capacity of our partner staff.
  • We are ensuring all new staff, volunteers and representatives receive safeguarding training as part of their induction and that refresher training is provided a minimum of every three years.
  • We have set up an independently-administered whistleblowing 24/7 hotline called ‘Safecall’ that anyone - Tearfund staff, volunteers and partner staff - can call to report potential incidents of misconduct and safeguarding concerns. The contact details (email and telephone) were made available on Tearfund’s website on 5th March 2018. We are in the process of making these details available to all partners in their national languages. The link to Safecall can be found on the ‘Reporting Concerns’ page.
  • We have an ongoing programme of development to strengthen our expertise in dealing with any safeguarding incidents that may arise.
  • We are actively participating in sector-wide meetings and initiatives to improve safeguarding standards across the whole aid and development sector.
  • We are preparing for external audit and certification by the end of 2018 by an external organisation that specialises in safeguarding for the aid and development sector.

23 February 2018

Tearfund works around the world to see people freed from poverty, living transformed lives, and reaching their God-given potential. We focus on reaching the poorest and most vulnerable people around the world. We are deeply committed to building a world where healthy relationships are restored; a world where violence, harassment and abuse is never tolerated.

Tearfund is committed to the safeguarding and protection of all our beneficiaries, partners, organisations, volunteers and staff, with a particular emphasis on our beneficiaries, who are some of the most vulnerable people in the world. We believe this is an important part of our calling as Christians and we expect to be held accountable for our actions.

We are deeply saddened and disturbed to learn of the abuse that has taken place within the international development sector and we stand with others in condemning these events. Abuse, harassment and violence should never be tolerated. We make our safeguarding and whistleblowing policies clear to all our staff, volunteers, partner organisations and other representatives.

In 2017, Tearfund had more than 1,000 salaried staff working in nearly 50 countries in many of the most dangerous, hard to reach and isolated parts of the world. They work alongside 350 local partner organisations working on our behalf, who employ approximately 14,000 staff in total. We also arranged for 284 people to work overseas as volunteers.

Whilst we strive to apply our safeguarding and whistleblowing policies as comprehensively as possible right across this international network, sadly we wouldn't be able to claim that there has never been any instance of misconduct or abuse at Tearfund or within the broader network of our partner organisations and representatives.

We can guarantee that every incident that we have been made aware of either has been fully investigated and dealt with or is currently being investigated. We have disclosed all cases to the Charity Commission in accordance with their guidelines. Every incident that is reported is taken very seriously and investigated by a senior staff member responsible for safeguarding. We commit to dealing with them swiftly and robustly.

We recognise that our approach of working with many small local partner organisations and volunteers creates a complex network and our systems for reporting incidents will not always function perfectly. We are committed to promoting a culture within Tearfund where people can bring forward any concerns and we are actively encouraging staff to reflect and share any historical information that they may now recognise as potential misconduct. We are fortunate to have committed and passionate staff who care deeply about the well-being of the communities we serve and their colleagues.

Tearfund is open to constructive criticism and committed to building and strengthening our current global approaches to safeguarding. We will do whatever is necessary to give victims a voice and a safe place to report abuse. We are committed to investigating allegations, supporting victims and ensuring perpetrators are disciplined and referred to the relevant authorities.

We actively seek feedback from our partners and beneficiaries and make every effort to ensure there is an open and equal partnership between all those involved in the fight against poverty. We have respect, a deep concern and duty of care for every individual we work with. If we ever discover that trust is broken we will deal with it robustly and swiftly.

Nigel Harris
Nigel became Tearfund’s chief executive in November 2015. He is married to Teresa, they have two children, both students and is an active member of St Michael's Church, Southfields, London.