Kids Company, a Southwark charity working with over 30,000 children across the country, closed its doors yesterday, just one week after receiving £3million of government funding.
The organisation, founded in Camberwell in the 1990s by the charismatic Camila Batmanghelidjh, has been dragged through the media mud in the last month as allegations of poor financial management and a withdrawal of £5million of annual government funding emerged on BBC’s Newsnight.
Government ministers threatened to withhold a £3million one-off payment to help the charity “downsize” if Ms Batmanghelidjh was not replaced with a new leader.
Last week she agreed to step down and the payment was made but in an embarrassing turn of events for the government, the charity appears to have spent some of the money on paying outstanding staff wages, not a permitted use of the funding.
As ministers reportedly tried to claw the money back, the threat of closure hung over the charity, after nineteen years of helping thousands of vulnerable inner-city children, young people and families.
Southwark Council has been in emergency talks with the Department for Education and other local authorities to prepare for the closure of Kids Company. A spokesperson said: “Although Southwark doesn’t refer any children to the charity, some will have sought out their services. We are ready to support any vulnerable children and young people in the borough who are affected by the closure of Kids Company.”
The charity, which currently supports 36,000 children and adults in London, Bristol and Liverpool and has 650 staff on the payroll, publicly confirmed its closure last night and Camila Batmanghelidjh said the “profoundly sad” decision had been taken because of the actions of “rumour-mongering civil servants, ill-spirited ministers and the media.”
In a BBC interview this morning, Ms Batmanghelidjh said her organisation had been treated as a “political football” as swingeing cuts to public services had led to a flood of vulnerable chidlren and young people turning up at the Kids Company door who should be the responsibility of the government.
“It’s not about bad management on our part, it’s about trying to sort out something that society isn’t dealing with,” she said.
It emerged last week that Scotland Yard’s child abuse command are investigating “historical but serious” allegations involving Kids Company but these are not believed to be linked in any way to the threats of closure. In a statement, the charity said: “Kids Company is cooperating fully with the police to assist the investigation into what it understands to be historical but serious allegations but has no further substantive information to date.”
A philanthropist reportedly withdrew a £3million donation to the charity in the wake of the child abuse allegations, which further served to strip the charity of much needed capital.
A Government spokesperson said:”The Government has supported Kids Company over the last seven years to help it deliver services for vulnerable young people and so we are disappointed it has been unable to move to a sustainable financial position. The welfare of these young people continues to be our primary concern and we are now working closely with local authorities to make sure they have access to the services they require.”