MAITS is dedicated to improving the lives of adults and children with developmental disabilities in some of the poorest countries in the world. The safety and welfare of the children and adults we work to serve is paramount and comes before all else.

At MAITS, we have all been deeply saddened by the recent reports of abuse and exploitation of vulnerable people in the international press by people working in our sector that were supposed to helping them. Exploitation and abuse happens across every culture and in every sector and level of society and sadly the charity sector is no exception. Abuse at the hands of those entrusted with assisting and protecting others it is the ultimate betrayal of trust and break down in accountability to vulnerable people in need of assistance.

The first principle of humanitarian action is the principle of “do no harm.” Exploitation and abuse is never acceptable. MAITS has a zero tolerance policy of any kind of gross misconduct and we want to reassure all those we work with that we take any reports of improper behaviour extremely seriously.

We also acknowledge how very difficult it can be for people to come forward with reports of abuse or exploitation because of fear of getting someone into trouble, fear of being wrong, fear of being blamed or a feeling of guilt. We wish to make it clear that MAITS will always take a report of abuse seriously and treat it sensitively and with respect, whilst upholding the welfare of those affected. We wish to state for the record that no-one should ever be concerned about reporting a concern – this will not get you in to trouble, cause a negative impact on your work as a result of speaking up.

The fact that these cases from our sector have come to light, has increased awareness of the risks and the need to make sure they do not happen again. We recognise that as a charity working with some of the most vulnerable people in the world, we have a responsibility to ensure that we protect those who we work to serve and ensure that we do everything we can to keep them safe from abuse and exploitation. This includes people with disabilities, but also the carers and professionals that we train and those working in the organisations we visit to provide training.

Those with disabilities are particularly vulnerable to sexual abuse. A review on the prevalence and risk of violence against children with disabilities, published in July 2012 in the Lancet showed that children with disabilities were 2.9 times more likely than their non-disabled peers to be sexually abused.

MAITS is strongly committed to keeping all our beneficiary groups safe and upholding their rights to be treated with dignity and respect at all times. We are doing this in the following ways:

• Accountability to the people we work with

• Organisational culture

• The employment cycle

• Reports and complaints mechanisms

We have been reviewing our work on safeguarding on an ongoing basis and are continuing to do so to ensure that we set the highest standards for ourselves. We have had assistance from the resources and experts at different groups with sector specialists and through pro-bono solicitors reviewing our policies.

As part of our commitment to accountability, we will have a safeguarding page permanently on our website with our safeguarding policy, a one page flow diagram that explains exactly what to do if anyone has concerns about a MAITS’ staff member, volunteer or representative and also what our representatives can do if they witness an issue they are concerned about.

In recruitment, we make clear that we have a stringent code of conduct that representatives and employees must sign up to and we have made reporting of any safeguarding concerns mandatory and staff or representatives that fail to comply with this will be subject to disciplinary action.

We commit to improving the standards and delivery of safeguards, including a culture of zero tolerance to sexual exploitation and abuse in all we do.