Save the Children boss faced barrage of criticism from angry staff

Under-fire Save the Children boss faced barrage of criticism during showdown with angry staff

  • CEO Kevin Watkins was heavily criticised at a showdown with staff yesterday
  • He admitted Save The Children UK failed to take firm action against ex-bosses
  • Justin Forysth and Brendan Cox are accused of harassing female employees
  • The Charity Commission published a devastating report on the allegations 
  • Its report said that Mr Forsyth sent ‘unsuitable texts’ and Mr Cox demanded sex 

The Save The Children boss under fire over the charity’s sex pest scandal was heavily criticised at a showdown with angry staff yesterday.

Chief executive Kevin Watkins admitted the charity’s failure to take firm action against former bosses Justin Forsyth and Brendan Cox for harassing female employees made the women’s ordeal more ‘painful’.

He also acknowledged there were workers – including some from ethnic-minority backgrounds – who still felt ‘their face didn’t fit’ at Save The Children UK (STCUK), according to a leaked recording of the crisis meeting obtained by the Mail.

Mr Watkins, 64, was put in the dock by employees at its London HQ following a devastating report by the Charity Commission. 

Pictured: Save the Children Chief Executive Kevin Watkins speaking at the Save The Children evening reception at the Conservative Party conference in an undated photo

Kevin Watkins said the charity’s failure to take firm action against ex-bosses Justin Forsyth (left) and Brendan Cox (right) for harassing female staff made the victims’ ordeal ‘painful’ 

The watchdog highlighted the fact that he was a trustee when STCUK was accused of letting Mr Forsyth and Mr Cox off the hook by mismanaging complaints against them between 2012 and 2015.

Mr Forsyth was accused of sending ‘unsuitable’ texts to female staff. Mr Cox, widower of murdered Labour MP Jo Cox, was accused of demanding sex from one.

Save The Children boss blames sex probe for lost £16m: Embattled charity chief is accused of ‘outrageous’ attack on watchdog 

By Simon Walters for the Daily Mail

The embattled boss of a charity hit by sex pest claims has been accused of making an ‘outrageous’ attack on the official watchdog that investigated its failure to protect female staff.

A leaked memo from Kevin Watkins, chief executive of Save The Children UK, puts the blame for it losing £16million of taxpayers’ money on the Charity Commission for investigating the charity’s cover-up of sexual harassment and bullying of female staff by two former bosses.

The memo plays down the seriousness of the two-year inquiry, saying it is ‘no indication’ of the extent of wrongdoing. And it claims the Commission is struggling to cope with a series of big investigations because of a cash shortage.

It goes on to admit that despite promising to root out mistreatment of staff at SCUK, 28 per cent said they ‘had experienced some form of workplace incivility’, with those from minorities worst affected.

The memo by Mr Watkins was disclosed on the eve of the publication of a damning report into SCUK by the Charity Commission this week.

When Mr Watkins was asked if he planned to quit, he replied: ‘No. I have no intention of resigning.’

Referring to the report, he said it was a shock to ‘lift up the bonnet of the culture of an organisation and see stuff you hadn’t expected and don’t like the look of’. 

One female employee accused him of trying to excuse Mr Cox and Mr Forsyth by blaming ‘the culture of the organisation’ for allegations against them.

She said: ‘Using the word ‘culture’ removes any accountability for the actions of the two perpetrators of the harassment and the mismanagement of the investigation.’

Another staff member lambasted Mr Watkins for the way the charity spent £114,000 on lawyers in an ‘aggressive’ bid to stop the media exposing the scandal.

Mr Watkins said: ‘We didn’t do the right thing. We were too defensive and ended up using too many lawyers when it wasn’t necessary. Even more seriously, we hurt the women who had already been victims of the actions we were investigating.’

Staff claimed junior colleagues who made complaints were still discriminated against, and ‘psychological barriers’ made it impossible for staff to complain.

Referring to BAME (black, Asian and minority ethnic) staff, Mr Watkins said: ‘If you have a culture where it becomes OK to send offensive texts in the knowledge that you won’t be put through process… you feel you can’t complain to your line manager because you are BAME, that is culture. A lot of people are left feeling that their face doesn’t fit.

‘The reason we ended up where we did was because of the actions of two senior executives who were responsible for sexual harassment and the abuse of power.’

STCUK chairman Charles Steel said its board wanted him to stay.

But former employee Alexia Pepper de Caires told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme: ‘We cannot expect people who were part of the problem to reform an organisation.’

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