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Friday, 7 August 2015

A Response to the Closure of 'Kids Company'

On Wednesday 5th August 2015, Kids Company founded in 1996 by Camila Batmanghelidjh closed.


As a person who works closely with children needing special care and support I am distressed by the closure of Kids Company.
Whilst some aspects of it's organization and charismatic leader, Camila Batmanghelidjh (we'll call her CB) possibly do warrant investigation, so much good has been done by this charity. From humble beginnings as a 'drop-in' centre for troubled youngsters in London it has expanded to 11 centres in London and Bristol with an out-reach project in Liverpool becoming over-whelmed with a huge number, not only of troubled youngsters but also their wider families. Increasingly seriously disturbed young people have been referred to Kids Company calling for a variety of professional interventions and huge expense. One might say that Kids Company is a victim of it's own success.

From being an admired icon, CB at the moment is on the receiving end of various negative allegations. The expansion of Kids Company and her fundraising efforts have propelled CB onto the world's stage and whatever the outcome of these personal allegations, sadly there will always be people who enjoy bringing down a successful and prominent figure.

We don't yet know the truth behind current allegations concerning the charity's finances or the criticisms being levelled against CB but there is no doubt that Kids Company engaged with the people who needed it most. Families in need may be intimidated by more formal 'help' organisations. This may be for a variety of very valid reasons- English not being a first language, mental- health issues, low-levels of Literacy and lack of education which may embarrass or inhibit families from seeking and getting the help they need. The informality of Kids Company's approach and it's ever open door took away these barriers so that children and their families who were not coping well with life found a safe-haven. Providing such a wide ranging facility needs a bottom-less pit of money.

It's been stated that cash handouts should not have been available. Maybe- but a child needing a pair of shoes or a warm jumper needs them NOW not when some committee has been convened in several weeks time.

CB is certainly a flamboyant figure but to say two prime ministers have been 'mesmerised' by her is something of an insult. Prime Ministers David Cameron and Gordon Brown have direct family experience of vulnerability (albeit medical) in the young and have shown understanding and empathy being stalwart supporters of Kids Company and showing great humanity towards troubled youth.

The situation with Kids Company is both wonderful and appalling. Wonderful that CB recognised the need and founded the organisation. Appalling that the demands on the charity, the services it provided and the financial lifelines thrown out to it could not sustain it.

Perhaps the real question that should be asked is what is wrong with our society that we have so many children, young people and struggling families in need of an organisation like Kids Company. It is irreplaceable.