In Depth

Kids Company: ex-charity boss Batmanghelidjh's 'verbal ectoplasm'

Camila Batmanghelidjh and Alan Yentob face grilling by select committee on failed charity

Camila Batmanghelidjh, the charismatic founder of the former children's charity Kids Company, was yesterday accused of "verbal ectoplasm" and "non-stop psychobabble" as she answered questions put by MPs.

During a three-hour grilling, she and the former chairman of trustees Alan Yentob denied that Kids Company had "failed" and claimed its closure had led to stabbings, suicide attempts and even a murder. They said the charity had closed because of false allegations of sexual misconduct.

Yentob and Batmanghelidjh also admitted that Kids Company used to hand out up to £200 cash a week each to vulnerable children with which to pay drug dealers, says the Daily Mail.

Batmanghelidjh, Kids Company's chief executive until July this year, was questioned by the Commons Public Administration and Constitutional Affairs Committee alongside Yentob.

Once a pet project of David Cameron's because it seemed to reflect his 'big society' philosophy, Kids Company was forced to close under a cloud in August when the government refused to renew its funding.

There have been repeated allegations, including concerns raised by the Cabinet Office, that the charity was badly and autocratically run, wasteful and over-staffed by employees with mysterious jobs.

There have also been claims that Batmanghelidjh and Kids Company mishandled allegations of sexual assaults at the charity. Yentob and Batmanghelidjh both strongly denied those allegations yesterday. A police investigation is ongoing.

Yesterday's select committee exchanges were "ferocious", says The Guardian. MP Paul Flynn accused Batmanghelidjh of using a "non-stop spiel, psychobabble… verbal ectoplasm" and a "torrent" of words, rather than answer questions directly.

At one point, as Yentob was denying that there had been any cause for concern about Kids Company's financial viability back in 2014, Batmanghelidjh tried to speak.

This was not her first attempt to interrupt his answer and committee chairman Bernard Jenkin shouted "Order!" at Batmanghelidjh, says Donald Macintyre in The Independent. She replied: "I don't know that shouting is going to get me to behave any better."

Yentob, meanwhile, looked "like a pudding waiter sitting next to a fruit salad", writes the Mail's Quentin Letts, referring to Batmanghelidjh's habitually colourful and idiosyncratic clothing.

Yentob denied that there had been a conflict of interest between his position at the charity and his role as a senior BBC executive, once the corporation's journalists began to investigate the struggling charity.

The Mail says that Yentob told the MPs he had "in no way" attempted to influence reporting, despite having telephoned Newsnight and Radio 4 as both were about to broadcast reports about Kids Company.

Insisting that the charity had been in good health financially before its closure and was not mismanaged, the two former Kids Company bosses blamed the sexual misconduct allegations for its collapse.

Batmanghelidjh has previously said that the claims frightened off her private donors who had been on the point of matching the government's final £3m payment.

She repeated the claim she made in the summer that civil servants had briefed against her. But both she and Yentob were quite clear that Whitehall was not the source of the allegations of sexual misconduct.

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