Brunswick and Save the Children chair Sir Alan Parker 'urged to leave' charity amid harassment crisis

Brunswick chairman Sir Alan Parker is being urged to leave his role as the chair of international charity Save the Children over its handling of a harassment scandal.

Sir Alan Parker: 'Ultimately accountable' for incidents at Save the Children, petition says
Sir Alan Parker: 'Ultimately accountable' for incidents at Save the Children, petition says

A number of national media titles including the BBC, The Times and The Daily Mail have carried the story of a petition stating that current and former Save the Children staff are "appalled" by the alleged conduct of ex-CEO Justin Forsyth and former chief strategist Brendan Cox.

It says those who have signed the petition are "disappointed by the subsequent handling of the cases, both at the time of offence and during recent press coverage".

Earlier this month, Cox resigned from two charities set up in memory of his late wife Jo Cox MP after he admitted "inappropriate" behaviour while working at Save the Children.

Last week, Forsyth resigned from Unicef, where he was deputy executive director, following separate complaints about his behaviour by Save the Children staff while working for the latter charity.

Parker 'ultimately accountable'

The petition says Parker, who was chairman when the alleged incidents took place, "was ultimately accountable for both cases and his abuse of that power to dampen the situation is widely known".

"While he remains an integral part of the organisation as chair of the SCI board, we do not believe that these incidents can truly be in the past. This is an issue that began with leadership, and must end with leadership."

The petition urges "proactive, full public disclosure, to retain and regain public trust", and "HR processes that stop these perpetrators from taking senior positions within the sector".

The petition has received more than 200 signatures at the time of publication.

Meanwhile, The Mail on Sunday yesterday featured an interview with Alexia Pepper de Caires, a former Save the Children employee, who said she was "one of the many women who suffered at Save The Children while it was overseen by Justin Forsyth and Alan Parker".

She said Parker "cannot be the best person to lead Save the Children through root-and-branch reform when he is one of the roots".

Charity responds

PRWeek approached Brunswick for comment and was referred to Save the Children. A statement from the charity said: "Save the Children puts its hard-working and dedicated staff at the centre of our organisation and we listen carefully to and respect the views of all our colleagues, past and present.

"We are aware of the concerns expressed in the petition and believe it’s vital that everyone feels safe and secure when going about their work and interacting with colleagues. It’s precisely for that reason CEO Kevin Watkins has commissioned a thorough review of current practices and workplace culture.

"This will provide an independently led and confidential opportunity for colleagues and former colleagues to channel any concerns, thoughts or suggestions in relation to their time working at Save the Children. We are also taking a hard look at our HR policies and procedures to see where they can be improved.

"We take the review very seriously and hope all staff will engage with the review team and use this as an opportunity to shape our work culture."

The crisis at Save the Children follows that at another high-profile charity, Oxfam, following a major investigation in The Times that revealed several employees were regularly paying local prostitutes in the aftermath of the devastating earthquakes in Haiti.

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