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Statement from NCVO chair, Priya Singh, on the outcomes of investigations into complaints

The board of trustees is committed to NCVO’s equity, diversity and inclusion (EDI) and culture change programme.

We believe being open about this process, including what we’re learning and the decisions we’re making, is a crucial part of that culture change journey.

We can now share further updates on progress against the actions the board has taken following the independent report into EDI at NCVO from July 2020. This includes the outcomes of investigations into 10 complaints received by the board during an independent inquiry in October 2020.

The board commissioned the independent inquiry to ensure any unresolved incidents relating to bullying or discrimination that had taken place at NCVO, and were highlighted in the independent EDI report, were properly addressed.

After speaking with colleagues across NCVO, we decided that investigations into the complaints received would not start until the organisation restructure had been completed at the end of January 2021. We then began investigations into the complaints, with two independent investigators appointed in March and April 2021.

Investigations into all complaints have now concluded and reports have been presented to a panel made up of trustees and an independent committee member. The panel’s decisions have been communicated to all involved, including updates for the wider staff team.

The details and outcomes of the investigations are:

  • The 10 complaints included accusations of harassment, victimisation, race discrimination and issues around management of health and safety.
  • A number of the complaints have been upheld. The remaining have either not reached a conclusion or were partially upheld.
  • A number of complaints were made by the same individuals. To protect the identity of those involved in the investigations we cannot specify the number of claimants and subjects of complaints.
  • Where complaints have been upheld we are following internal disciplinary procedures and the process will remain confidential.

I would like to apologise on behalf of the board of trustees to everyone who has been harmed as a result of these incidents and by the failings at NCVO. I am sorry for what you have experienced.

As I have previously stated, we will not accept incidents of bullying, harassment, and discrimination at NCVO. We have begun the process of deep cultural change in our organisation to ensure we can prevent and, when needed, identify and effectively deal with similar incidents should they arise.

This has been a long process and we understand that the investigations will have been difficult for the individuals who made complaints. I would like to thank them for their bravery in coming forward and being part of this process.

The last 18 months have been extremely challenging for everyone at NCVO, in many ways. The board and I, through the leadership team, continue to offer support to all staff and to all those impacted by these incidents and failings.

Throughout these investigations it has been necessary to, as best we can, protect the identity of the individuals involved for legal reasons, to safeguard the integrity of the investigations and complaints process, and to protect the wellbeing of the individuals involved. I am sure you can understand that this means we will not be publicly naming those involved or sharing any more details than we are in this statement.

We want our staff team to be confident in the systems, processes, and leaders we have in place. Following the appointment of our new people and culture team, and as recommended by our independent EDI report, we have introduced a clear process for making ‘whistleblowing’ reports. We are also currently reviewing and strengthening our internal policies and procedures, including how complaints and grievances are handled.

Crucially, we want staff and managers to feel confident using our policies and procedures. We want a culture that recognises people raising issues as an opportunity for the organisation to learn and improve.

Our leadership team have demonstrated to the board that they have a clear focus on embedding a new culture across the organisation, and culture change sits at the heart of our new strategy. Trustees and staff have been working to implement actions from our culture change roadmap, which includes recommendations from the initial EDI report, as well as from the subsequent inquiry.

The investigations I have detailed made additional recommendations and highlighted several actions previously identified through the EDI report and inquiry, which we will implement and have incorporated into our existing plan and work.

We will continue to update members and the wider sector on the progress of culture change at NCVO.

I would like to end by again saying sorry to those impacted by failings at NCVO. I would also like to restate the complete commitment of the board to ensuring real change takes place at NCVO and the confidence we have in our leadership team to deliver this vital work.

Our interim chief executive, Sarah Vibert, talks more about this programme of culture change work and support for staff in her blog post today.

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