Less is more: Charity retail reaction to the Oxfam Charity Commission investigation

It’s all over the news today. Oxfam is reeling from the results of the long awaited Charity Commission’s investigation. The report demands a continued global expectation of improved safeguarding and that any allegations of child sexual abuse are more thoroughly investigated. Oxfam says it is changing and working better to improve the people it serves. Here at the Charity Retail Consultancy we are saddened by what has happened in Oxfam’s name, and we stand by those who are bringing about the changes in behaviours and expectations of all stakeholders.

In the UK we expect our charities to be exemplary at all times, and when they’re not, we are quick to criticise and even to withdraw support. We’re feeling solidarity with all charity workers today, and especially (because we know this particular sector well) to the shop workers.

Blimey, it’s tough in retail. When all around you the high street is struggling and the pressure to generate more income is ever increasing, the last thing you need is even more regulations. But the Charity Commission’s Oxfam report will undoubtedly place greater expectations on UK charity shop staff to improve safeguarding and controls. Whether it’s more DBS checks, enhanced safeguarding training, changes to induction training or to the types of volunteers a charity shop can welcome, the outcome is that there will be a greater emphasis on controls and procedures.

We totally agree that all of this is essential to protect the charities’ people. Bring it on. But spare a thought for the hard working and relatively lowly paid shop manager who has to introduce and manage all of this, on top of everything else they have to do to run a charity shop. So how do we ensure it happens and is done well and in the positive spirit it is intended? It’s about providing real support for the teambut maybe it’s worth taking another look at income targets. To retain and to continue to motivate our best people, charity retailers might need to expect less in the tills. Reducing the income budget, by say 5%, to reflect the additional workload that any enhanced checks and new styles of local leadership will generate might be a sensible way forwards. If a charity’s people are supported and protected, it can deliver a realistic budget in the face of increasing challenges, and it will continue to inspire, give hope and build trust.

Charities have the potential to build communities and improve everyone’s way of life like no other sector. Let’s remember that and do this properly.

The Charity Retail Consultancy can support your charity through change and to secure improvements.  Visit our website for more information or get in touch via email:



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