Foreign aid sector needs to accept it is overseeing a sex abuse scandal on a par with churches and football, senior MPs warn

The foreign aid sector needs to accepts it is overseeing a sex abuse scandal on a par with the churches and coaching in football, a senior MP has warned on the eve of a report by MPs.

Sarah Champion, chair of the International Development Select Committee, told The Telegraph that for many charities “the penny hasn’t dropped” that some abusers join charities to have access to vulnerable people.

In an exclusive interview ahead of the committee’s report into abuse in the aid sector, she said that organisations need to understand that not all staff in the sector are “so honourable that they are sort of above scrutiny or above corruption.”

"I would say that we have addressed the culture that was in the churches, that was in sports coaching, was in scouting," she added.

“But that same culture of both a very acute power imbalance, lack of robust safeguarding, and a basically a culture of denial, I think still exists within the aid sector.

"The big thing that they need to accept is that there are likely to be a tiny minority of people within their organisations who are there deliberately, to try and exploit those very people that they’re meant to be serving. That penny doesn’t seem to have dropped.

"There’s something about their motivations to work in that sector that are so honourable that they are sort of above scrutiny or above corruption.

“And that sort of insulation that they put around themselves, by nature of the work that they’re doing is what the perpetrators of abuse that are working within and look to exploit.

“To me coming from outside, it’s very obvious that that’s what’s gonna happen, but obviously the sector itself hasn’t made that realisation yet.

Last month The Telegraph revealed that some of the Government’s top foreign aid partner organisations did not ban sex with aid recipients.

"What I would like to see other organisations doing that process without having to have something horrific happen,” Sarach Champion added. “It shouldn’t take a scandal to recognise that this potential exists. But that’s that’s what seems to be happening.”

Stephanie Draper, CEO of Bond, the UK network for organisations working in international development said that they will continue to push to improve the sector, adding: “Safeguarding must remain a key priority for UK NGOs in the days, months and years to come.”

“We would urge the FCDO to champion a system and culture of high safeguarding standards globally and ensure they are met across all government departments spending Official Development Assistance (ODA).

DBS checks must also be extended to all front-line aid workers.”

A FCDO Spokesperson said it is “abhorrent” that aid workers sexually exploit people they’re supposed to be help and will carefully look at the committee’s report when it is published.

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