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Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 9:42 pm on 8th January 2020.

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Photo of Helen Whately Helen Whately The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport 9:42 pm, 8th January 2020

As I am trying to make clear, these allegations are being investigated by the Charity Commission and reviewed by the police, so this is not something the Government can intervene in at this point. However, this debate is certainly raising this issue up the agenda and making sure that there is a great deal of awareness about the situation. I will do my best to address the questions as I proceed.

I wish to talk a bit more about the important role of safeguarding in charities. It is important because it should prevent the exploitation of vulnerable people or enable a rapid and effective response if exploitation does happen. I want to make clear how seriously the Government take this; since 2018, we have invested more than £1 million in the domestic charity safeguarding programme. We have been working with charities and other partners, including the National Crime Agency, to raise awareness of safeguarding; to ensure that charities, whatever their size, whether large or small, know their responsibilities, know how to handle concerns quickly and can easily access advice. The Charity Commission has also launched a whistleblowing helpline to help people report safeguarding concerns, and I encourage anyone who has experienced or witnessed wrongdoing, or are concerned about it, to use that as a means of reporting it. Obviously, Members here can refer people to do that.

Allegations such as those raised by the hon. Gentleman reinforce the importance of this vital work on strengthening safeguarding, and further announcements will be made on that shortly. Protecting people from harm must always take precedence over protecting a charity’s brand or status. Charities must be clear that they will listen to safeguarding concerns and that those concerns must be treated promptly and seriously acted upon. The majority of charities take their safeguarding responsibilities extremely seriously, and it is right that we recognise that, but when concerns are raised, action should be taken by the Charity Commission and, if necessary, local safeguarding authorities and the police.

Many of the hon. Gentleman’s concerns relate to the police matters. As I have said, the police are reviewing the evidence they have received. May I suggest that if he has not done so already, he raises these concerns about policing with both the Mayor of London and the Commissioner of the Metropolitan police?

The Home Office is working extremely hard to transform its approach to dealing with crimes against vulnerable young people. It has invested significantly in a programme of reform to help the police to respond to changing crimes, including child sexual abuse. Child sexual abuse has been prioritised as a national threat, and the Home Office are empowering police forces to develop their specialist skills and expertise, increasing the police’s capabilities to tackle this terrible crime.