Kids Company’s founder opens up about its collapse in book

BY TOBY PORTER
toby@slpmeda.co.uk

Kids Company founder Camila Batmanghelidjh has demanded an independent inquiry into the fall of the charity, as she published a book about its collapse on Tuesday.

The former chief executive, dubbed “The Angel of Peckham” for helping 36,000 vulnerable children, was forced to step down amid allegations of mismanagement. Batmanghelidjh wrote the book, Kids – Child protection in Britain: The Truth, with Tim Rayment.

The Prince of Wales meets psychotherapist Camila Batmanghelidjh, founder of Kids Company, a registered charity working with children living in deprived areas of the inner city, during a visit to their headquarters on Grosvenor Terrace in south London today (Wednesday). WPA Rota picture by Michael Stephens/PA

It is intended to give tell her version of the events that led up to the collapse of the charity, as well as highlight systemic issues in Britain’s child protection system which she says need to be addressed.

There were claims in the weeks leading up to the collapse that government grants were spent on expensive luxuries such as a chauffeur and five-star hotel breaks for its young clients. The charity also faced a police investigation into allegations of child abuse that were later dropped.

Founder of Kids Co, Camila Batmanghelidjh (left) attends the “big society” meeting, chaired by Prime Minister David Cameron in the cabinet room of 10 Downing Street, London.

 

Batmanghelidjh says the allegations levelled against her and the charity, which received £40million of government money and had up to 600 staff, were false or taken out of context.

“For the most part, Kids Company handed out Tesco vouchers,” she says in the book.

“I couldn’t put in a request to a charitable trust for 300 pairs of Nike trainers. Most people’s idea of a poor child is an Oliver Twist type, sweet and begging. But the trainers are a necessary step to education. They give a kid the dignity to tolerate the shame of not reading and writing, then walk into college to learn.”

 

Mayor of London Boris Johnson chats with Camila Batmanghelidjh at the Evening Standard’s The 1000 Most Influential Londoners 2014, event at The Francis Crick Institute in London.

Kids Company got around 30 per cent of its income from the government, but most came from individual donors.

“Sooner or later it would die from donor fatigue,” she says.

“Survival of the Kids Company model would depend on persuading the government to fund us fully, either through a special grant or by seeing the model adopted in local authorities.

“By 2013, the philanthropists who supported Kids Company were getting fed up.

“They had been happy to fund a charity they saw as an innovator, but 17 years down the line they were tired of covering for government failure.”

File photos of Camila Batmanghelidjh (left) and Alan Yentob, who are among former bosses of Kids Company who face being disqualified from running companies after the Insolvency Service announced it would bring court proceedings against them.

She claims in the book to have been promised £20million for KC by Oliver Letwin, then a senior minister in the Cabinet Office, to fund the charity’s work, as it was “a proven programme that needed proper resourcing”. So she was shocked when the grant was well below that figure.

Batmanghelidjh says: “I believe Kids Company was closed down malevolently and abruptly because Britain was unable to tolerate seeing its lack of welcome for vulnerable children reflected back at it.”

She claims Kids Company became too big for the government.

Camila Batmanghelidjh, founder of disadvantaged children’s charity Kids Company winner of The Social and Humanitarian Award at the Asian Women of Achievement Awards at the Hilton Hotel in central London.

“Cabinet Office had tried and failed to get an independent auditor to find weaknesses in our charity and when that did not work, it drew up the report it wanted itself,” she claims in the book.

“Civil servants and ministers were engineering the closure of Kids Company.”
Its See the Child Change the System campaign sparked a backlash from Whitehall.
Batmanghelidjh said: “There is a risk in being an advocacy and a service-delivery provision in one.”

“If you challenge politicians and it does not suit their agenda, they retort by shutting down the services of the organisation.”

Speaking on ITV’s This Morning last Tuesday, she said the charity was taken down by “sexual abuse allegations that were totally unfounded”.

“There is a need for an inquiry, independent of government machinery. There’s been a drive to discredit Kids Company and a lot of false info has been generated.”

In its last set of published accounts, for 2013, the government provided £4million, about one-fifth of its annual £20million funding.

Kids Company was given £3million less than a week before it closed its operations, but the founder claims Government auditors and the Charities Commission found the money was appropriately spent.

Batmanghelidjh told Phillip Schofield she believed there was an “active conspiracy” against her because she was “fighting the government over child protection concerns in this country”.

But she said the book was not written in her defence, adding: “I wrote it because I feel the work of the donors and the staff needs to be respected.

“The money from the book is not going to me, it’s going to continue supporting the children and families who were left without support post-closure.”

Graffiti above the Kids Company sign in Bristol City centre as Camila Batmanghelidjh has blamed “ill-spirited ministers” for forcing the charity to close and “abandon a lot of children”.

The Charity Commission is yet to publish the findings of its statutory inquiry, opened shortly after the collapse. The Official Receiver was appointed to wind up the company and it is claimed the Business Secretary Greg Clark is seeking to ban Batmanghelidjh and the trustees from being company directors for between two-and-a-half and six years.

She said: “Our trustees worked really hard and did not deserve the unjust attack they were exposed to.

“They were at the top of their professions, extremely rigorous and profoundly committed to the cause. They were being punished because they cared enough to fight for what is right and not give up.”

A government spokeswoman said: “The Charity Commission and Official Receiver are undertaking investigations.

“It would be inappropriate for us to comment while the investigations are still ongoing.”


Please support your local paper by making a donation

 

 

Please make cheques payable to “MSI Media Limited” and send by post to South London Press, Unit 112, 160 Bromley Road, Catford, London SE6 2NZ


Housing Secretary Robert Jenrick has encouraged everyone in the country who can afford to do so to buy a newspaper, and told the Downing Street press briefing recently: “A free country needs a free press, and the newspapers of our country are under significant financial pressure”.

So if you have enjoyed reading this story, and if you can afford to do so, we would be so grateful if you can buy our newspaper or make a donation, which will allow us to continue to bring stories like this one to you both in print and online.

Everyone at the South London Press thanks you for your continued support.


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *