THOUSANDS of children working in charity shops are at risk of being preyed upon by paedophiles, Oxfamâs former head of safeguarding has warned.
Helen Evans told MPs that a gaping loophole allows charity shops to employ staff and volunteers without criminal record checks.
She said that while the rest of the foreign aid sector has started to crack down on sexual exploitation in the industry, charity shops have a âretail exemptionâ from having to carry out Disclosure and Barring Service (DBS) checks.
This means 14-year-olds doing work experience or volunteer for their Duke of Edinburgh and other vulnerable people working in charity shops could be preyed upon by sexual predators.
In written evidence she also revealed three shocking allegations of under-16 volunteers being abused by staff in Oxfam charity shops three years ago.
And Ms Evans told the Commons International Development committee that the sexual exploitation of children aged 14-plus volunteering in Oxfam shops were being âput at risk of abuse due to the organisationâs failure to DBS check all adults routinely left alone with child volunteersâ.
She told MPs of an allegation of physical assault against a boy, a claim of sexual assault against another child and claim of inappropriate sexual conduct towards a third.
Ms Evans, who quit Oxfam in 2015 after its repeated failure to act on her complaints, also revealed an alarming case of a mother warning the charity in 2014 that her girl was becoming groomed while volunteering in one of its shops.
It is the latest evidence of the widespread sex abuse that has rocked the charity sector since allegations of misconduct by Oxfamâs staff against victims of the 2010 Haiti earthquake.
Ms Evans said Oxfam had now tightened its rules to ensure all staff at its shops are DBS-checked but warned many other charity shops across the UK were still failing to carry out the criminal checks.
She told MPs: âThere is an exemption within the law for DBS that means shop managers in charity shops donât need to be DBS checked.
âSo you could be looking after 14-year-old children on your own every Saturday and thatâs not deemed regulated activity because shops have a retail exemption.â
She added: âIt should be clear that charity shops are not subject to the retail exemption for DBS checks.â
In February Oxfam issued an âunreserved apologyâ to the Government, donors, supporters and the people of Haiti over its handling of incidents including the alleged use of prostitutes by workers, in the earthquake-hit country in 2010.
Oxfam received Â£31.7 million in taxpayer funding in 2016/17.
But International Development Secretary Penny Mordaunt said in February that future funding would not be considered until her department was satisfied Oxfam could meet the âhigh standardsâ expected.
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