5 Aug 2015

Controversial Kids Company charity closes

After weeks of controversy the Kids Company charity has closed, causing anger among its staff who have been working to support vulnerable people.

Just a week ago they received a £3m government grant – but today the charity Kids company is closing its doors – beset by allegations of financial mismanagement.

The organisation’s chief executive Camila Bhatmanghelidjh, the flamboyant darling of government and celebrity donors like Richard Branson, stepped down after ministers ordered radical changes in the way the charity was run. She blames ministers and the media for getting it wrong.

Ministers agreed to give the extra cash to help restructure the charity despite objections from a senior civil servant who raised “serious concerns” about the organisation.

Cabinet Office Permanent Secretary Richard Heaton told ministers he did not think the governent funding would provide “value for money”.

Cabinet Office ministers Oliver Letwin and Matthew Hancock said they were “very mindful of the inspirational work that Kids Company does” and decided to release the funding anyway.

The youth organisation has been hit by allegations of bad financial management, prompting its high profile founder Camila Batmanghelidjh to quit as chief executive.

At the end of July it emerged the charity was being investigated by the police, regarding what Kids Company described as “historical allegations”.

On Wednesday London Mayor Boris Johnson told Channel 4 News that Kids Company had “done a good job in many ways for a long time”.

He acknowledged some people had “anxieties” about the charity’s financial management, but emphasised it was important there was a “back up plan” for children it was currently supporting.

Following last month’s allegations of financial mismanagement, Esther Keller, the director of services for Kids Company in Bristol, said donors had concerns Ms Batmanghelidjh would quit entirely.

“I think there was a fear from some of the bigger donors that we have had that if she were to leave the charity it wouldn’t be the same charity any more and they have put their eggs in different baskets,” she told the BBC World at One.

She said the charity was well run but there was a “limitless number of young people” seeking help.

Contemplating the organisation’s future she said: “I’m feeling absolutely gutted because I just know there are 600 young people in Bristol who are going to be devastated at the fact that there won’t be any more services provided to them from tomorrow.”

‘These children must be protected and supported’

Last month Ms Batmanghelidjh told Channel 4 News she believed the charity was a victim of a smear campaign.

Fears have been raised about what will now happen to the 36,000 children and young people the charity helps across London, Bristol and Liverpool. It operates in nine centres and two therapy houses supporting vulnerable, inner city children.

Acting Labour leader Harriet Harman, whose constituency of Camberwell and Peckham is served by Kids Company, demanded a plan to ensure the vulnerable youngsters the charity works with are cared for if it closes.

She said: “Whatever happens to Kids Company, these children and young people must be protected and supported. Such vulnerable young people must not suffer as a result of the breakdown of government confidence in Kids Company.”

Channel 4 News tried to contact Kids Company for a response, but was unsuccessful.