Cafod, the official aid agency for the Church in England and Wales, has been suspended from certification by an international standards body.
The Humanitarian Quality Assurance Initiative (HQAI), which evaluates aid agencies, gave Cafod zero points out of five for its complaints system.
HQUAI criticised the agency’s failure to communicate, saying, according to the Guardian: “Cafod does not work systematically with partners to ensure communities are made aware of the expected behaviour of humanitarian staff regarding the prevention of sexual exploitation and abuse.”
In a subsequent statement, HQAI said that suspensions are “common practice” and that the issue for which Cafod had been suspended was a frequent stumbling-block for aid agencies: “the weak point across the sector”.
HQAI added: “The transparency of audited organisations should not be overturned and misused for subjective criticism.”
Cafod’s outgoing director Chris Bain said he was “very disappointed” by the “gaps” HQAI had uncovered.
In February, Cafod sacked an employee who had been accused of sexual misconduct in a previous job. Another employee was dismissed in 2016 after an allegation of sexual misconduct.
In a statement released yesterday, Cafod said that it had since implemented a series of measures, including retraining staff, launching an independent review, and devoting more resources to safeguarding.
Cafod has six months to correct the issue raised by HQAI. Once an auditor confirms that the agency has resolved the problem, their certification will be restored.
Cafod promised “significant measures to improve our accountability to all of the communities and individuals we serve.”
This story has been updated with HQAI’s comments.