Part of me feels reluctant to write about or refer to the Jimmy Savile affair because there has been so much written and said already. However, it is a subject that we cannot ignore and while it is easy with hindsight for us to say “how did this happen?”, how can we be sure that, our organisation or social groups we are part of, are not complicit in this kind of criminal behaviour?
I learnt a very important lesson ten years’ ago working with a small international NGO. A story broke in the Guardian about an ex-staff member who had left before I joined. The man in question, who was British, had been arrested in Africa on charges of inappropriate behaviour with under age children while working for another NGO. The Guardian were keen to know about his time in our organisation and whether we could give an assurance that similar inappropriate behaviour had not occurred whilst in our employment. We were naïve. We had thought that because we had no children-related programmes that we were off the hook. We carried out an investigation and, once completed, we developed a child protection policy, ran training for managers and staff and made sure our recruitment process covered child protection issues thoroughly. It also led to the organisation signing up to achieving The People in Aid Code which is a code of good practice to improve effectiveness in the humanitarian and development sector.
More recently working for a large well-respected international NGO I was horrified to discover when I joined that the child protection process was confined to a one-sided A4 sheet of well-meaning statements. Again, there were no checks during recruitment, no information nor briefing during induction and no written guidance for staff. I am pleased to say that the organisation now has these processes in place.
We should never allow ourselves to be complacent. Do staff members know exactly what to do if they have suspicions about a colleague? Do we make sure staff, are made aware of their responsibilities for protecting children and vulnerable adults? Does the organisation have a culture which supports the protection of children and vulnerable adults? If you are in any doubt as to the answer to these questions please contact me for further information and advice.