In Brief

Kids Company: youth charity 'mishandled' sex assault claims

Camila Batmanghelidjh's charity, forced to close this week, faces allegations by former users and employees

Youth charity Kids Company has been accused of mishandling allegations of sexual assault.

But flamboyant founder Camila Batmanghelidjh insists some of the accusations are new to her.

The BBC lists three accusations of sexual misconduct:

  • A claim that staff were told of complaints about a client of the charity who sexually exploited female clients, off site. One former Kids Company worker told Newsnight the complaints were not passed on. The authorities were not told.
  • BBC News quotes a young woman it has called 'Kate' who says she was assaulted several times over a period of seven months in 2009 at a Kids Company site by a fellow service user. She says she tried to tell a staff member but was ignored.
  • A former staff member, identified as 'Ella', says she was a victim of sexual assault by a co-worker on a night out. She says she appealed directly to Batmanghelidjh but was disappointed she did not suspend the man.

Batmanghelidjh told the BBC: "There isn't an allegation that will stand. I'm telling you. Now. In 19 years we haven't had a single Child Protection problem in the organisation. And whenever something is raised with us we immediately report it to the police."

London's Met Police revealed on Thursday last week that its sexual offences, exploitation and child abuse command is investigating Kids Company over several "historical but serious" accusations, The Guardian said.

The charity based in London, Bristol and Liverpool was forced to close on Wednesday, leaving some 6,000 troubled young people looking elsewhere for support. It had employed 600 paid staff at its 11 centres - and a further 8,000 volunteers and 500 student helpers.

Batmanghelidjh says she was forced to close because the Government was leaving work it should be handling itself to her - and was not giving her enough money. She claims a private donor withdrew £3m funding last week after the allegations of sexual abuse broke.

Kids Company was founded by Batmanghelidjh, instantly recognisable for her idiosyncratic and colourful clothes, in 1996. It became a favourite of David Cameron's and received backing at his behest. Private donors include the band Coldplay.

But there are claims the charity was run by Batmanghelidjh too much as a personal fiefdom and that, because of her connection to the PM, it was not properly held to account or expected to demonstrate results through figures.

Senior civil servants raised concerns to ministers about Kids Company's financial management. Batmanghelidjh dismisses these, saying she became a political "football". The BBC's Alan Yentob, Kids Company's chairman, seems to agree.

Other Kids Company developments:

  • The National Audit Office (NAO), which monitors government spending, is considering what action to take. The Daily Express says shadow Cabinet Office minister Lucy Powell has asked the NAO to look into the funding of Kids Company.
  • Yentob has insisted he did not abuse his position as a senior BBC executive by calling Newsnight to ask why it had not approached the charity about its difficulties, the Daily Telegraph says. He denies there was a conflict of interest.
  • A former aide to Batmanghelidjh has told the Daily Telegraph she was shocked by the amount of waste at the charity, and how "overstaffed" it was. She claims Batmanghelidjh had a tree in the middle of her "Aladdin's den" office. The paper says Batmanghelidjh may at one point have had five personal assistants.

Camila Batmanghelidjh: Kids Company became 'political football'

6 August

Camila Batmanghelidjh has said her charity Kids Company became a "football for the media and civil servants" and insisted it ran out of money because it was doing child protection work the Government had failed to properly tackle.

Batmanghelidjh, who spoke to the BBC this morning, has been under attack for weeks, facing allegations that the children's charity she founded in 1996 was badly run and wasting money on large numbers of staff with mysterious jobs.

The charity has received £37m in Government grants since 2005 and has been a personal favourite of David Cameron's. The PM saw Batmanghelidjh as championing his notion of the Big Society and channelled money to her organisation.

But Kids Company was told earlier this year that the £4.3m it received from the Government in April would be the last payment this financial year because of concerns over its day-to-day financial management.

Batmanghelidjh then negotiated a £3m rescue package, which the Cabinet Office granted on condition that she was no longer chief executive. She announced on 24 July she would step aside, taking the newly-created role of 'president' instead.

The decision to give the £3m went ahead despite a warning from senior civil servant Richard Heaton, permanent secretary to the Cabinet Office, who made a rare intervention by writing to ministers warning it did not "represent value for money".

Yesterday, after a joint investigation, Buzzfeed and the BBC's Newsnight programme quoted sources "close to the Government" who claimed the charity should not have used part of the £3m bailout to pay wages - supposedly around £800,000.

Today, however, The Guardian quotes emails from Kids Company staff that it says suggest ministers were told that part of the money would be used to pay wages before they signed off on the grant - and did not raise an objection.

Batmanghelidjh has also fundraised extensively from private donors - according to the Daily Telegraph, with the rock group Coldplay reportedly giving her £8m.

She told the BBC this morning that she had been on the point of receiving £3m for restructuring from a private donor, matching the Government grant, when police called "out of the blue" about sexual abuse allegations.

The Met Police is investigating allegations from two former Kids Company employees that criminal activity including sexual abuse had taken place on the charity's premises.

The donor panicked after hearing about the investigation and withdrew the offer, Batmanghelidjh claims, leaving her with no choice but to close Kids Company.

Kids Company employed 650 staff in 11 centres in London and Bristol, an outreach project in Liverpool and projects in more than 40 schools in London and Bristol. The charity says all of these schemes, helping 6,000 children, will now close.

Batmanghelidjh said that many staff had agreed to stay on unpaid to look for help for the most vulnerable children in their care. The Government was also "scrambling" to find help for them on Wednesday, said The Guardian.

Youth charity Kids Company to close despite £3m grant

5 August

The London-based youth support charity Kids Company, founded by the British businesswoman Camila Batmanghelidjh, has told the government it will close its services this evening, despite a recent rescue grant of £3m.

Controversially, it has been claimed Kids Company used some of that money to pay staff wages despite being told by the government it must not do so. These claims have been investigated jointly by Buzzfeed and the BBC's Newsnight.

Two sources close to the government said the £3m was supposed to be used for restructuring, while Kids Company admitted that it had indeed used some of the money – around £800,000 – to pay staff wages, which had been two days overdue.

What is not clear is whether Kids Company had been told that the money must not be used that way. The government is now trying to claw the grant back.

Batmanghelidjh set up Kids Company in 1996. It is said to support thousands of children around the country. Kids Company was said to have been a personal favourite of David Cameron who, according to a "senior figure" in the coalition quoted by the Daily Telegraph last month, was "in awe" of its charismatic founder

Batmanghelidjh became a "poster-girl" for Cameron's Big Society idea, said the source, claiming that Cameron at one point personally overruled the concerns of Department of Education officials to insist Kids Company be given a £4.3m grant.

According to social policy academic Professor Peter Beresford, writing for The Guardian, Cameron was attracted by "pseudoscience" about children's behaviour being biologically determined.

By backing these claims, the charity shifted the blame for antisocial behaviour to "poor mothers" chiming with Cameron's "individualistic politics", said Beresford.

The Telegraph's source said Batmanghelidjh's credit with Cameron made her untouchable. He claimed she did not provide the "analysis" needed to show how many children her charity was helping to prove how cost-effective it was.

The source told the paper: "It was never clear to us what she actually spent the money on rather than employing an awful lot of people. But what did they do?

"How many kids did they actually take off the streets and improve their lives? Camila Batmanghelidjh never had that sort of analysis because Number 10 said give them the money."

For her part, Batmanghelidjh said she was a pawn in a dirty political game. She insisted: "The type of briefing they are now delivering is one in which they are attempting to discredit me, so my message is weakened.

"I pray to God it is not coming from David Cameron and his team, I still have to have faith he wants to do the right thing by children."

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