How to judge a charity: the five questions no one asked Kids Company

How do you know if a charity is changing lives? The government clearly has no idea

2 January 2016

9:00 AM

2 January 2016

9:00 AM

How do we judge a charity? Very badly, it turns out. Until The Spectator revealed the full horror of Kids Company in July, not even the press had asked hard questions of the charity or its founder, Camila Batmanghelidjh. The subsequent political scrutiny showed our democratic process at its best.

When Paul Flynn, a veteran Labour MP, told Batmanghelidjh at an electrifying House of Commons hearing to stop talking ‘psychobabble’ he stripped away in an instant the glitz that had allowed one small charity whose sole qualification was the charisma of its leader to fritter away £48 million of taxpayers’ money. ‘We do not live on the moon,’ Flynn told her. ‘We represent areas that have great problems. We know about them. So do not treat us as though we are the Prime Minister and you are trying to get £30 million out of us.’

The spectacular failure of Kids Company and the hollowness of many of its claims put the government in a bind. Small, local charities are often the best way of helping troubled young people who have been let down by the state. This government wants to use the third sector, but it appears to lack any means to hold it accountable. How do you know if a charity is changing lives — or merely splurging £300 on trainers? The government clearly has no idea. The matter is now urgent. How many more Kids Companies can this government — or we — afford?

For the past decade I have looked at charities while investigating the care system and trying to help one south London gang. Here is a common-sense approach to judging charities.

The first question to ask is: who uses the charity, and in what numbers? It is surprising how many charities with marvellous PR and facilities are not very popular. On my first visit to Kids Company in 2005, one problem was immediately obvious. There were no kids. On my second visit the kids were there — but only to collect the cash doled out in envelopes every Friday. This observation did not need sophisticated analysis or investigation. What it did need was two unannounced visits, something the government, wealthy donors, the media and even the charity’s own trustees apparently failed to carry out over 20 years of Kids Company’s existence.

The second move is to question the people using the charity. It is not good enough to talk to the people whom the charity has lined up for you to meet. Two articulate and presentable young black men made the same complaint to me. The two charities they were involved in deliberately kept them dependent in order to have them available and on site to impress donors.

It is important to hold these conversations away from the staff and preferably off the premises, in a nearby café for example. The young people I talked to were often drug addicts, criminals and prostitutes. They nearly all had mental health problems. That did not stop them holding strong views on whether a charity was any good. Their views should be listened to. Ten years ago the young people I met at Kids Company, despite payouts, complained about the charity. They have been proved entirely right. The gang I befriended talked bitterly about a small charity on their estate in West Norwood. The woman running it, like Camila, inspired confidence. In fact she was stealing money and running a scam.

The views of the people using the charity should be solicited independently of the charity staff — and listened to.

If these two basic principles had been followed, Kids Company would have been exposed years ago and £48 million better spent. It really is that easy.

The third question is more difficult to gauge. How effective is the charity over the long term? Is it really changing lives or merely satisfying an immediate need?

A charity may dazzle you with all kinds of statistics to prove its long-term effectiveness. Treat such figures with care. Kids Company told one young man he had to retake GCSE English and Maths. The fact that he already had a C in both made no difference to the charity. They insisted he resit the exams so they could include his pass in their results. Obviously it is a lot easier to achieve a pass with someone who already has the qualification than with an illiterate hoodie.

There are other ploys to watch out for. Charities that work with the homeless, ‘Neets’ (young people not in education, employment or training) or the long-term unemployed may claim a ‘number of people getting into jobs’. It is important to look at the quality and the sustainability of the jobs. Are the charities merely funnelling people into dead-end, short-term work? If someone who has been long-term unemployed starts a job, even if they only work for a day, the charity gets to tick its into-work statistic box.

To understand if a charity is effective, we need to track the people it has helped. What has happened to them after, say, a year? How many are still employed; are holding down a tenancy; have completed an addiction programme and stayed clean? How many offenders have not re-offended in that period? These are the statistics that count. These are the statistics that tell of lives transformed (or not).

The opposite was happening at Kids Company. There, adults in their twenties and thirties still received money from the charity. Staff and young people complained Camila had favourites: ‘They rely on her and she likes to feel like a mother to them. She paid their rent, gave them cash every week and bought clothes for them. Indeed, if they tried to be independent, she cut all contact.’ A friend working in a charity helping victims of horrific abuse noticed this trait in one of their psychotherapists. ‘She wanted to hang on to the young people. She needed them to need her. In the end we had to let her go. She was actually harming the kids.’

A fourth question to ask is whether the charity is actually required. Is another one doing the same job better? Often people assume a big-name charity is ‘better’, when actually it is a small local charity that is really helping. This is particularly important because there is now such competition for funding. So many amazing charities lost out on funding to Kids Company — the bigger PR draw and the more fashionable but less effective option.

The final question is: does the charity put the people it helps first — rather than concentrating its efforts on what is convenient for staff or seductive to donors?

You may find a charity that cuts programmes because it suits staff to do so. For example, a youth- or gang-related project may run on Monday to Thursday nights but, because the workers want a break, be closed on the most troublesome Friday and Saturday nights. This is often the case with statutory offerings, or charities that were formerly run by local government.

Some charities offer programmes that appeal to staff and give middle-class donors a warm glow but which hoodies dismiss as a waste of time — putting on a play or sloshing paint around, for example (although it should be said that for other groups these can be effective).

A person-centred charity would understand that it had to reach out to the hoodies rather than wait for them to turn up. I was always sceptical of Camila’s claim that large numbers of youth referred themselves to her centres. The gang I befriended refused to use any of the charities I found because it meant leaving their block and crossing territory belonging to another gang. Who would put their lives in danger for a Kids Company lunch, however well cooked? As soon as they could, they started using mini-cabs. So a question for a charity purporting to reach gang members is: how are they getting to you? How will you manage the violence when they encounter other gang members on your premises? (Another good reason that I was given for not attending.) If, for example, a charity approached me for funds and it was using a van to go into estates and make contact with disaffected youth, I would be intrigued. That would show that it understood the problem and was trying to do something unusual to fix it.

The lesson here is that government has to understand the problems before it can spot the imaginative solution. The challenge is to develop the tools to compare charities and check their effectiveness without stifling their unique qualities. That, says Chiku Bernardi of Impetus Private Equity Foundation, means building a culture of transparency and accountability into these organisations that is helpful rather than a bureaucratic obstacle.

Impetus-PEF finds charities and social enterprises that have a promising track record and helps them with management support, expertise and funding. The key to success, says Chiku, is to work with the charities over a number of years. What data is a charity collecting? Is it learning from that data? Is it evaluating to improve or merely to prove? Her organisation is helping small charities with good ideas ‘grow into an organisation which can reliably and predictably produce meaningful social change’. In other words, into the sort of small charities that can deal with government.

Kids Company should be a lesson in the danger of funding only those charities that know how to deal with government — and how to self-promote. But it does not show that small charities with zany ideas are all bad. After the disaster of Kids Company, the temptation for government is to retreat into the comfort and safety of regulation. That would be sad. It is self-defeating to turn charities into an extension of the welfare state that has already failed these young people. The government is right to try to use small charities and right to want to make sure their work is effective and taxpayers’ money well spent. They should start by asking a few commonsense questions.

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Show comments
  • Sean Grainger

    It took perhaps 30 seconds of watching the daft woman on Question Time to write her off as both dodgy and stupid — correctly as it turned out.

    • Atlas

      The most baffling thing about Kids Company was how the self-appointed elite actually fell for her. Just watching an interview with her, well before the truth came out, made it clear she was both untrustworthy and on an epic ego trip.

      • Sean Grainger

        And it got much worse: did you see her in front of Commons Committee? You look like Dorothy Parker!

        • Jugurtha

          It’s Ayn Rand. The clue’s in the name.

      • Frank

        Ah, but did you watch the two gormless senior civil servants and batty Oliver Letwin?

      • Gilbert White

        Fifty million of taxpayer’s money is nothing for the new model Conservative party’s nice image? Coca Cola would be glad to pay so liitle for imaging?

  • NBeale

    Terrific article Harriet – keep up the good work, and Happy New Year!

  • richiesan

    Excellent article Harriet. I’d be very interested in your opinion of the NSPCC. Does it provide effective help to children or is it there merely to lobby parliament and increase its own self-importance?

    • Trainspotter

      The latter. Same with Oxfam, Save the Children, Age Concern, Shelter……………………..

      • grammarschoolman

        I thought they existed mainly to fill up empty units on the high street. Do they do charitable things as well?

  • Harryagain

    The batman woman looks barking mad to any normal person.
    But our dopey politicians are so easily duped.
    Further proof they are all brain dead.

    • thomasaikenhead

      They were never duped, she was just a convenient vehicle for their policies!

  • MrsTrellis

    The obvious answer is that charities – almost by definition – should not receive any government money whatsoever.

    • Trainspotter

      This is the solution. Many charities in receipt of taxpayer largesse are fake. If they need money let them get it themselves.

      There used to be a website called, fakecharities a few years ago but I don’t know if it still exists. It was an education reading it.

  • grimm

    I used to wonder why this absurdly dressed woman (who looks like a dodgy fairground fortune teller) was always asked to appear on BBC news and current affairs programmes when there was a story involving youth problems. Once the Yentob connection was revealed it all became obvious.

    • Dukeofplazatoro

      I thought she looked more like an overturned laundry basket. I suppose that is part of the image she was trying to cultivate.

      • Bella Sassin

        The best description I’ve heard (courtesy of Jerry Sadowitz) is she looks like a f*cked up Ronald McDonald.

    • Bella Sassin

      LOL. Dodgy fairground fortune teller. Or a f*cked up Ronald McDonald (courtesy of Jerry Sadowitz).

      • Fencesitter

        Overturned laundry basket is good though 🙂

        • Bella Sassin

          Overturned laundry basket is humorous, gentle satire. But Sadowitz is visceral 😉

  • twinscrew

    Gullible is the only word that can be used to describe our politicians,

    • Benthos

      What does that make us then?

      • GnosticBrian


  • Noa

    Ultimately this article is an argument for the regulation of charities.
    This is a a task which should fall within the responsibility of a) the particular charity trustees and b). the Charities Commission. Unfortunately the latter is now an socialist quango which is incapable of performing its original role effectively.

  • Yew Leaves

    The head of the charity International Rescue helps himself to an annual salary of £450,000. So, David Milliband take a bow, your selfless dedication is an example to us all.

    • Ivan Ewan

      Thunderbirds don’t build themselves after all.

    • grimm

      Why does David Milliband benefit from such a good press when there is so little to recommend him?

    • Gilbert White

      Consolation prize?

  • MC

    Very few charities actually help the people they claim to. International aid agencies are all con acts. Foreign aid budgets to rich countries like Nigeria and India likewise demonstrate how international organisations seek to steal from the poor and give to the wealthy 1%.
    This joke Kids company was obvious emperor clothes stuff to everyone bar the people giving tax payers money; the same idiots who are promoting foreign aid.

  • Retired Nurse

    Applies to MarieCurieplc (if you can call that a charity anymore – <50% of income spent on frontline nursing) who a) owned copyright of the infamous liverpool care pathways and b) performed their own abysmal ''quality control'' -as lead team for NHS End of Life Care the crew in Liverpool blew some £500K of taxpayers money (granted by Labour's Alan Johnson) somewhere, but no one has a set of accounts 🙂

    • Retired Nurse

      ..they were in ‘Common Purpose’ too – any causal connection there?

    • chesters

      well I’d prefer to give to Marie Curie than Macmillan, which is a hugely wealthy and influential charity. At least MC nurses actually provide hands-on nursing. Macmillan nurses don’t – they leave that kind of difficult and dirty work to the MC nurses, to the hard pressed NHS Community Nurses, and to very under-paid home carers. I was charity-chugged by a team of Macmillan fundraisers in my local high street a few months ago – it was obvious they were clueless about the charity itself and could not answer any in-depth questions about what the charity does and how it is funded.
      But thanks for the info about MC.

  • James Chilton

    It’s self-evident why no enquiries were made into what the ‘foundress’ of this scam was up to. The very name ‘Kids Company’ is obviously manipulative.

    • Hamburger

      Most charity names are manipulative.

  • For many years, I was involved with a small London charity for children with special needs, latterly as chair. I well remember having to submit accounts to the LBC which gave us a grant and also the Charities Commission. I always thought that there was a percentage of gross income which had to be spent on the kids and Kids Company obviously didn’t abide by this rule, but the CC did scrutinise this figure in our case. Does the CC only bother with small charities? I am baffled as to how Kids Company got away for so long without the Charities Commission asking them some very awkward questions. Harriet, you should be looking at this, because I am sure they are not the only charity to be fraudulently disposing of donations. And as for giving the kids cash, words fail me.

    • GripperStebson

      The answer is in plain sight: Batmanghelidjh had a Prime Minister on speed-dial who was more interested in photo opportunities than probity with the public purse.

    • grammarschoolman

      ‘I am baffled as to how Kids Company got away for so long without the Charities Commission asking them some very awkward questions.’

      Because during most of the period concerned, they were too busy attacking independent schools and trying to find ways of removing their charitable status.

    • chesters

      I think the CC has been pretty useless/toothless for a long time. Four years ago, I had contact with a small charity in East London which received all of its income from the Local Authority, the NHS, and the Lottery. A substantial amount, of public money.For various reasons I became suspicious of the financing and management of the charity, and tried to find out more. I made a phone call to the CC and was virtually told to mind my own business, and was also accused of racism (the charity was run by persons from an African country. The charity is still going strong.

  • Dennis7

    But don’t we still want to know where has this enormous amount of money gone…and what was it spent on precisely?

  • CortexUK

    Government, patrons and contributors should be wary of any charity run or controlled by a single individual, especially an individual with a very strong personality cult and a close relationship with politicians or donors.

    It has always been clear to many of us that the way CB acts and operates indicates a psychopathic tendency, probably a serious Narcissistic Personality Disorder. One only needs to look at the manner of her physical appearance. Many cite her ethnic background as the driver of her style of dress, but it is interesting to go back through the photographic record to see that when CB started out in charitable work she dressed very plainly and conservatively. The more popular and powerful she became, the more outlandish and absurd her appearance. Observe her appearance about 20 years ago in the attached images, and compare with her appearance today. You don’t need a shrink to add any professional comments here:



    In order to avoid the cult of personality taking control of a charity, the law should be changed so that no individual may lead or control any charitable organisation for more than three years. Board members should be limited to five years.

  • Anglocynic

    A very good and insightful article. I understand more about the problem now than before I read it, mission accomplished Ma’am.

  • grammarschoolman

    This just shows how you should never give a job that involves reading and adding up to a dyslexic.

    • Mary Ann

      Being dyslexic doesn’t stop you being able to add up, and dyslexics can learn to read with the right teaching.

  • Ian Lynch

    Excellent article. As someone who works in child protection I am also sceptical of the big charities NSPCC and Barnardos as well. They do run a few helpful projects but compared to the dramatic advertising and huge revenue stream their input into making a significant impact on children’s lives on a large scale is actually pretty minimal. Like much of the charitable sector they have become very corporate, very style over substance. They have very slick PR and are always very quick to put the boot in when local authorities screw up, I am sure this is done with one eye on snapping up contracts for tax payer cash under the creeping privatisation agenda

    • Benthos

      NSPCC take a lot of money from the EU. Thats one of the reasons I stopped giving money to them as it looked like my money was being used for lobbying rather than the child in need.

      When I stopped my account, they just would not leave me alone.

      • Ian Lynch

        I find the harassment for money from many charities so counterproductive, I’m not giving to anyone any more because I don’t want 3 million begging phone calls asking for more cash

        • Benthos

          The high street chuggers as well?

        • Chiswell

          I agree. I had this with Centre Point. Started giving a regular amount and was deluged with mailings and emails (fortunately no phone calls) pushing for more money. It was overwhelming (a seriously ridiculous number of communications) and the mailings must have cost a fortune in postage. Counterproductive, too, as I ended up having to cut them off to stop all of this.

          • chesters

            generally, I agree (I’ve had many such phone calls ) However, I have a direct debit with the Battersea Dogs and Cats Home, and they don’t harass at all. Just an annual letter, thanking me for my support and giving some examples of the animals they have helped, and how their income is spent, with a suggestion that I might like to give more (I don’t) They seem to have got it right

      • gavioli

        A few years ago and over about 3 years I helped raise many tens of thousands of pounds for the N.S.P.C.C. as a volunteer worker, entertaining people at flag days in Lancashire. The equipment that I took with me, was worth in the region of twenty five to thirty thousand pounds and I also paid for legal insurance and various licenses in order to spend all day doing what I did. I charged 20% of my normal fee just to cover expenses and sometimes made a loss, but it was for a worthwhile charity so I didn`t mind too much.

        I was very happy doing this and the Appeals Manager and I, made a dream team. Then the senior manager began to take liberties and I had to struggle to get paid everytime I worked, with him giving me ever inventive stonewalling excuses. Eventually I withdrew my services in disgust and the Appeals Manager (who was absolutely brilliant at her job), also turned her back on the Society.

        Ian Lynch is correct and because of the incident that I have recounted, the organisation lost a valuable fund raising resource and an efficient manager simply because they couldn`t get the right person in place, to manage it a local level.

  • ADW

    It’s blindingly obvious that the Tories were too excited by the photo ops and general PR to ask a single question

    • grimm

      Do you really think that was just because they were Tories and that members of other political parties would not be so easily fooled?

      • anonuk

        Tories seek to hive off services from councils to charities as a priority. Which was why Thatcher was so keen on Savile 35 years ago.

      • ADW

        No but Dave was desperate to change the party’s image, and this was an opportunity not to be missed.

  • LoveMeIamALiberal

    These tests are all well and good but difficult to apply correctly. Here are some simpler tests anyone can do:

    1. How much is the CEO of the charity paid?
    2. What percentage of the charity’s income is from the State?
    3. Does the charity use chuggers?
    4. Does the charity run junkets for celebrities who it employs as ‘ambassadors’ for its cause?
    5 .Has the charity ‘broadened’ its original remit to include things it was not set up to do?
    6. Is the CEO of the charity regularly seen with politicians, actor or pop stars?

    If the answer to 1. is over £100k, to 2. over 50% or ‘yes’ to any of 3, 4, 5 or 6, do not give it any money.

    • aldousk

      I would not donate to any so-called charity that boasts of having a CEO. Nor would I consider donating to a charity that does not publish a set of accessible, understandable and complete set of accounts.

    • ReefKnot

      I would also add “does the charity spend its time lobbying and campaigning instead of doing real charitable work ?” If it does, don’t give it a penny.

    • Dave Matthews

      That would mean you wouldn’t give to the Red Cross, £146,547.66 per year ($300,000 Canadian Dollars)

      • LoveMeIamALiberal

        Do you mean the British or International Red Cross?

        In either case, the answer is yes I would not donate to them. I see no reason why any charity should pay such a salary.

  • JonBW

    The Kids’ Company is the tip of a huge iceberg; regulation of charities is completely inadequate.

    Many of the big charities are appallingly wasteful and deliver very little apart from lobbying for their particular viewpoint (which is often not representative of those they purport to help).

  • thomasaikenhead

    A brutal yet brilliant analysis of what happened at Kids Company and similar charities!

    A simple series of questions to introduce governance and accountability.

    More articles like this please?

  • thomasaikenhead

    Hopefully the role of Alan Yentob in this scandal will also be subjected to close scrutiny and he will be held to account?

    • CortexUK

      Not by the BBC. He managed to give up his position of senior authority but keep most of his huge income and all of his pension – plus his cushy presenting job. The BBC don’t seem to bothered now he’s done that.

      • Gilbert White

        Do not worry his BBC expense account is being looked at in minute detail?

      • thomasaikenhead

        Perhaps the BBC might be forced to change their ways as the organisation itself comes under increasing scrutiny?

    • cartimandua

      there was no scandal and A Y did nothing wrong at all.

      • John Hawkins Totnes

        How do you know?

        • cartimandua

          Heard him speak on radio. In spite of the low rent Paxo type bullying interviewing he was very clear that all he did was ask for decent standards of journalism and right to reply.

          • John Hawkins Totnes

            You might be right, but don’t be taken in by cleversmooth talkers.

  • RavenRandom

    The other test is does the leader of the charity say “look at me, look at me, look at me.”

    • cartimandua

      that’s right people give charities money for sitting quietly in a corner.

      • RavenRandom

        They advertise the charity not the self-aggrandising individual.

  • Really good article, gets to the nub of the matter. I recognise a lot of these problems from my own brief time working in the charity sector. Especially the part about workers getting too attached and not letting the kids fly the nest.

    • cartimandua

      the nub is that other charities and state provision are far more expensive and less effective than KC was

  • Gilbert White

    People are asking for the regulation of charities? There are regulations. Lime in many spheres they are not enforced at local and natinal level. Look at the ease Galloway had and his use of litigation?

  • cartimandua

    This article is so stupid it is wicked. KC ran a street level therapeutic community which was more effective and cheaper than any other charity or state provision for the client children and young people it served.
    1 child costs 1 million in the Care system just 1. Prison costs 220 K per year with a 60 % recidivism rate year one.
    LISTEN STUPID MEDIA HACKS. If you want to dump on someone you have to compare the cost and efficacy of alternatives.

    • mdj

      ‘… more effective and cheaper than any other…’; measured by what yardsticks? Records were kept, presumably? Are they online?

      • cartimandua

        Yes but it is obvious. I have given you the numbers for state provision and outcomes for the care system have been endlessly found to be poor. Outcomes for juvenile detention are 68% recidivism year one.

        KC ran a street level therapeutic community. They would only have to “reach” a handful of really mucked up young people to be better than state provision in youth justice or care.

        Outcomes are online but even links to newspapers wont post so you will have to research it yourself.
        One outcome which sticks in my mind is that no KC kids rioted. The riots cost 133 million.
        Bottom line there is little state provision, it is ineffective, and very expensive. Its too little and too late.
        60% of KC kids didn’t have a GP. 80% were homeless. 300 out of 400 interviewed had no birth certificate because their “adults” were too chaotic to do it.
        We have huge levels of neglect, abuse, and deprivation in this country and all media and government want to do is silence people who talk about it.

        • mdj

          ‘KC… would only have to…’; so you haven’t got any hard figures, either for the authorities or KC, just assertions.
          ‘No kids rioted’; you’ve got the numbers for that as well?
          How many rioted when KC collapsed, as Yentob solemnly predicted?

          You sound like somebody with a very similar, but slightly shorter, name.

          • cartimandua

            I spent my entire career in child mental health so yes I do know how absent, bad, and expensive state provision is.
            KC did as well as the top of the range very rare state services at a fraction of the cost.
            1 child in care costs 1 million pounds with poor outcomes.
            young offenders cost 220 K per year with a 69% recidivism rate in the first year.
            KC dealt with the scariest young people from the worst possible backgrounds.
            KC failed because of false allegations of abuse of one client by another which KC were not told about at the time.
            Government isn’t providing a service protection or care for the most neglected and dangerous young people.
            They are kicking the can down the road because those kids will be costly in terms of a lifetime of benefit dependency, poor health, and criminality.
            KC was also very low cost because of the thousands of volunteers they attracted.
            I expect knife attacks have gone up as will have muggings etc.

          • MellorSJ

            “I spent my entire career in child mental healt”

            Nuff said.

            It might be better if you got an actual job.

          • cartimandua

            “Nuff said” you are merely deeply ignorant. I am just rather surprised you can read.

          • 9sqn

            I don’t believe one word. Fingers in the till perhaps?

          • Incidentally I’m not impressed at the reactions you’ve elicited by other commenters on here. I might have a slightly less rosy view of KC myself, but I recognise the voice of someone who does actually know what they’re talking about. I despair at the base level of some of the comments down here… it’s almost pointless responding because pre-conceived prejudice seems to trump real knowledge around here!
            Just annoyed at the way the swine are responding to the pearls you’re throwing out, to use a Biblical metaphor. Do you ever feel it’s completely pointless commenting seriously on a serious article?! (I often do, especially when the article refers to an area in which I have a lot of knowledge, which doesn’t apply here!).

        • 9sqn

          You throw out figures in much the same as KC did .. when she was believed. You are clearly part of a self-interested, self-fulfilling bullshit scam, just like your hero ( ine ? )

        • Yes, including Trussell Trust, which runs the majority of food banks. The Government certainly want to shut them up, because they tell the truth about the reason people arrive at their door…

      • cartimandua

        Go look up the cost of state services. Its 1 million per child in care and 220K per year per young offender with a 68% re offend year 1.
        So KC was very cheap indeed.

        • mdj

          Since you asked, I looked; this is from the Guardian ;’..it costs between £200,000 and £300,000 a year for residential care for a child, and £30,000 to £60,000 for foster care.
          Why is it so expensive? (For comparison, it costs £30,000 to keep
          someone in a low-security prison for year, and £30,000 to send someone
          to Eton.)’

          Expensive enough in all conscience, but nowhere near your made-up figures.
          Are you sure you aren’t Camila?

    • 9sqn

      It was stupid media hacks who failed to see the obvious and expose the corruption of KC’s little empire. Or else they were too frightened of crossing the PC path when faced with a fat, black, probably lesbian, immigrant with a biiiig mouth. Let’s face it, the prime minister was.

      • cartimandua

        So show us that there are cheaper more effective state services. There are not are there. Services have been cut and now mentally ill children and young people are clogging up A and Es at great cost.

        • 9sqn

          Funny when I was in A&E recently the only people clogging it up were immigrants.

      • cartimandua

        You mean I think that a charity run using the latest up to date neuroscience to create an effective program was convincing.
        The program was created using the most up to date neuroscience.

  • cartimandua

    The author of this sorry hatchet job seems to have overlooked the vast numbers of studies done on KC by all the top institutions in the land.
    And she claims some kind of academic justification for her claims????

  • cartimandua

    CB told the truth about the scale of the problem and the lacks in services for children in every sphere. They metaphorically shot the messenger.

  • John Hawkins Totnes

    Any charity which is really a charity would have NOTHING to do with government in any way.

    • disqus_QL05BqU79X

      Well said.

  • cartimandua

    Thing is John there are no adequate services for the care of children in this country. Mental health services are not adequate and neither is a care/mental health system which can only react when a child is nearly dead.

    Government doesn’t want to know about it so they metaphorically shot the mouthy lady.

    Doesn’t it seem strange to you that in all the attacks on KC no one ever looked at the costs availability and efficacy of state provision?


    “Sarah Brennan, chief executive of YoungMinds, a charity working with children with mental illnesses, said the impact on A&E departments of running down child and adolescent mental health services (CAMHS) should have been foreseen. “Support in the community needs to be provided for children, young people and their families when they start to struggle, so that we can prevent the intense suffering that a mental health crisis can cause”
    That’s the consequence of not providing services in the community state or charity.

  • Always be wary of charismatic leaders in any field. Treat all their claims and appeals with extreme caution. And don’t believe those cheerleaders who claim this one person can make all the difference. A charity, like any organisation, should be able to survive and thrive without it’s founder / leader. If you can’t imagine that happening, you need to question the viability of the enterprise.

    • GoJebus

      Yes, it is a strange facet of human nature that we are attracted to
      gurus and charismatic charlatans. History is infested with them, and
      today in the 21st century CE they can be found in any church, temple or
      mosque up and down the country. Interestingly, all of them have a back passage,
      which they use to excrete waste, just like you and me.

    • Absolutely right. I had the misfortune to work at a charity founded by such a person. “Founder’s Syndrome” is alive and well in many charities (and other organisations, but often charities). The charity I worked at only started to develop properly when the founding director had, er, left!

  • Archie Bargee

    Even big charities have their problems. We had a rogue direct debit raised by a well known national children’s charity, and it took weeks, plus several telephone calls to their highly paid chief financial officer to get it stopped. In fact it transpired that the charity had been stealing the money out of our account without our signature, and even a different name on their form, (they even argued with our bank Santander, quoting untruths) but it was even worse when the head of finance lied claiming that my wife might have agreed to this direct debit raised in a northern town 230miles away from us.
    Eventually I got the direct debit stopped, and the money (in the form of a cheque) grudgingly returned by NSPCC, but nothing to recompense the telephone calls costs, but a request to consider giving them a ‘second chance at being a charity’ by starting a fresh direct debit.
    They are no longer on our preferred charity list, and we do not recommend them as we do not know what they do with the money.

  • starfish

    Luckily the BBC, bastion of free press and investigative journalism, sussed her out eh?

  • therealguyfaux

    Pournelle’s Iron Law of Bureaucracy may be apposite here– in any organisation, you have people dedicated to the mission of that organisation, and you have self-aggrandising nest-featherers Eventually the latter will drive out all of the former, and the organisation will then become a self-perpetuating vicious circle whose actual mission is self-perpetuation to the exclusion of any original mission. And I’m being charitable here (if you will), in taking for granted that KC might even have been on the up-and-up to begin with.

  • MathMan

    KC Batman’s clients seem to comprise illegal immigrants and the offspring of Afro-Caribbean runaway father/mothers. And they’re all still here polluting the country. What’s not to like?

    • cartimandua

      6 out of 10 KC kids got out of gangs and criminality. None of them joined in the riots which cost 133 million.
      Honestly do all those saying “let them eat cake” think they will just crawl away and die quietly? They will be expensive trouble for their entire lives..
      There are no other services able to turn them into productive citizens.

    • “Polluting the country”?!!! Sorry, I know this is a right-wing paper, and I’ve heard plenty like this in the comments sections, but when I was growing up (brought up by a mother with the kinds of views you’re expressing) I learnt to keep my more unattractive thoughts to myself. I won’t try to argue an opposing point of view because I know it would be useless, but I couldn’t let that one go by without saying something… even if just to know I’d said something!!

    • cartimandua

      Because they wont crawl away and die. They will end up expensively on benefits or in prison.

  • 9sqn

    I wonder if she’s have got quite so far had she been a middle class, white male.

    • cartimandua

      She wouldn’t attract the sort of vitriol that’s for sure. This charity was doing good.

  • Bonkim

    Charities should be run by volunteers at all levels. Money corrupts any high ideals they may have started with. Government should not involve charities in managing social budgets – instead all statutory obligations should be carried out by paid staff working under civil servants overseen by elected politicians. Social work is no longer unregulated and bringing in charities into providing statutory services is a mistake.

    • cartimandua

      KC had 10,000 volunteers. That’s free workers .There are nothing like enough services to deal with the vast amount of need, and “paid staff” are expensive.
      That’s why 1 child in care costs 1 million pounds and 1 young offender costs 220 K to “keep” per year and 68% re offend in year 1.

      • Bonkim

        Too many for too few le by this silly woman in ridiculous headgear.

    • When I was a manager at a charity, managing volunteers was WAY more difficult (than managing paid staff, and that can be hard enough!), because you have no leverage over them. If they don’t like what you’re telling them to do, they can just walk… and then you have to recruit & train yet more volunteers. And a load of volunteers without any management or accountability are…. just a load of unaccountable volunteers! I have sympathy for your idea, but it’s very, very far from being a panacea…

      • Bonkim

        You are more or less proving the point – are Charities supposed to conduct business as say a commercial or public-service utility are expected to? The answer is no – Charities are better suited to local effort based on public subscription or donations and to meet non-essential do-gooding tasks carried out be local volunteers. The moment they embark on serious business they have to comply with the whole hog or legal and regulatory barriers and also face commercial management issues that you put so well. Of course if I am spending a few hours of my time in what I see as helping the community in some small way i don’t want to be told what to do by idiot managers – and some of the volunteers may have carried out highly paid and/or responsible jobs. They may see their labour as a payback to their community – not meet government targets.

        Going back to my point – and statutory social services should be carried out by government agencies or contractors employing paid staff. Charities get on with what they want to do with money they are able to raise locally – and all volunteers unpaid. They need to be small, dedicated and flexible – or will just meddle along. Some charity organisations are also run to make money for a few people or as a tax-avoidance rig up whereas actual delivery is minimal or non-existent.

        Charities embarking on overseas adventures particularly suspect – I don’t donate money to any. Government should walk miles away from charities and NGOs.

        • Believe me, a bunch of unmanaged volunteers could make a real mess without accountability and organisation! I worked in a very, very small charity and I definitely wasn’t highly paid – acting CEO on £18,000 should prove my point! Charities have to do so much these days, providing essential services where the State cannot or will not, that a reasonable, sensible element of management is essential. And, just because you sound as if you’d never believe me, I can tell you that one of the best, most effective and empowering managers I ever had was in local Government… but he wasn’t appreciated; decent managers rarely are, in any kind of organisation. But I couldn’t have done my job without his trust, confidence and willingness to let me set my own agenda (under his supportive eye) – and his defence of my position when I annoyed the senior managers, which I tried not to do too often 😉

          • Bonkim

            ‘Charities have to do so much these days’

            Much of this has been invented in recent years – Britain ran very well before without these do-gooding bodies as you say supported by local government that had expanded their work beyond their statutory tasks.

            Charities should go back to their roots as originally envisaged – local groups that did charitable work in their communities to alleviate poverty and help the needy – not invent new tasks for propagating minority interests many of those invented recently.

            Local government also needs to concentrate on the basics – in a free society individuals are expected to sort themselves out and take responsibility and if they can’t or fail – suffer the consequences – too much hand holding is not the British way. Kids Company pandered to fashions and fads and came unstuck – no tears for them.

  • Bonkim

    Too many for too few led by the Cat woman in silly headgear. Self publicst.

  • WarriorPrincess111111

    I was not aware of the Kids Club affair until I read about it in the Spectator. I could not believe that so many people in positions of power and responsibility could be so foolish. It is as if there was a sudden epidemic of stupidity! Before you even pass over one dime of anyone’s money, you check out the stories that you have been given. It took me about ten minutes on line to establish that not only was this Camila strangename a highly dubious character, that her stories did not add up – but her father before her was a Walter Mitty character who had fooled many people in high places. A very strange family who appear to have done very well out of their charades.

    • Toy Pupanbai

      One glance says, ‘SCAM’!
      Remember Delorean?

      • Toast well done

        But what if they hadn’t given her cash, the BBC/Guardian/Charity mafia would be screaming and crying – who is brave enough to go up against these criminals.
        I don’t blame em. I wouldn’t be that brave, or suicidal.

    • cartimandua

      This whole bs is a government attempt to bury the bad news about state services being cut and expensive failures when they do exist.

  • Excellent article….

    BUT. It’s not just charities that are guilty of this; large multi-national corporations do the same, but they exclusively use taxpayers’ money, no donations. Can we expect the Spectator to look into those too? Please?

    Let’s start with the Work Programme – Chris Grayling’s brainchild, where he said large providers (the G4S’s and A4Es of this world) would cascade work down to small, local providers and charities, which have the real expertise. But this didn’t happen. Instead we have a Work Programme with the following faults (and these are just the ones I know about; there are undoubtedly others, including the whole A4E fiasco!):

    – low success rates, pitifully low in the case of disabled people and people with long term health conditions;

    – failing to differentiate the demands of work preparation activities in recognition of clients’ specific impairments – what’s the point of asking someone who’s usually bed-bound to attend a 4–hour workshop, still less if that person has to use public transport?!

    – failing to differentiate the content of work preparation activities and courses in recognition of clients’ employment background and education – just how many CV-writing workshops can one person usefully make use of?!

    – failing to work with and support employers (this may be because the Government doesn’t really accept this is necessary, since they appear to think that it’s only disabled benefit claimants that need to make an effort, not employers!), and failing to properly match jobseekers with employers/vacancies.

    – failing to make use of and devolve work to smaller organisations and charities with proven expertise in the field.

    Harriet, you may specialise in charities, but it would be excellent if a right-wing rag (to improve credibility with the Government that invented this money-sinking work programme) could get a journalist to investigate the Work Programme, especially in relation to its effectiveness (NOT) in supporting disabled people. This is especially important, given that despite this Government’s best efforts to persuade us to the contrary, most disabled people who are able to want to work but need proper, specialist, experienced support to do so. What they do NOT need is interminable CV-writing workshops or, MUCH worse, benefit sanctions for failing to turn up when they’re physically (or mentally) unable to do so. If you want some references to useful sources of research and information on good practice in this field, see Chapter 4 of the full report of which I was the lead author at http://www.just-fair.co.uk/#!about1/c1ext

    Note: There are good work programme providers, I know, but unfortunately the programme as a whole has not represented good value for money and parts of it have done easily as much damage to people’s lives as Kids Company. Unfortunately, however, the BBC hasn’t really gone for it properly and left to Channel 4 the topic will get limited traction… even though it’s OUR MONEY!

  • Marketthinker

    I know someone who was under pressure to donate a substantial sum to KC (it was very much ‘the thing to do in some circles). He asked to look at the accounts and concluded immediately that it was bust. Presumably he was the only one that had got his money through the ability to read a balance sheet.

  • cartimandua

    Jane Young having worked in child mental health all my working life I can tell you that KC succeeded with “unreachable” dangerous young people far more than any but the most expensive state provisions.
    What hacks like Harriet don’t do is demonstrate a “better” alternative. The government just wants to pretend there is no problem and o need. That kicks the problem down the line to expensive and ineffective youth offending services.
    KC ran a program based on the latest neuroscience.

    • I appreciate the insight from someone who knows what they’re talking about. I think it’s quite possible to hold in tension two disparate views/facts – firstly, the good – that KC was based on the right neuroscience and was more effective than local authority/CAMHS services in helping some of the hardest to help children, but secondly, the bad – that it was too dependent on one, charismatic leader, and there was insufficient financial rigour and accountability generally.
      Ability and vision can enable a person to inspire and build a beneficial service, while the same person may well have an insufficient grasp of finance and other essential matters, the lack of which ultimately ends up destroying the good work if those matters become out of hand, which they appear to have done in the case of KC. I myself worked for a charismatic charity founder, who had a fantastic vision and was extremely good at networking, getting support for the charity as it was established. However, the fact that his personality led to everything revolving around him, and that he struggled – on his own admission – with financial and administrative matters – led to some very difficult times. In the end, the charity only really grew wings when the founder left (and moved to another part of the country) and others could take his vision and wisdom, add to it the necessary financial and procedural rigour, around accounting, safeguarding etc, to allow the charity to grow. But the important thing to remember is that the charity would never even have started were it not for the founder’s vision and his strengths that led to its beginning.
      I would agree, from my limited knowledge of seeing what my son and his “friends” got up to during troubled teenage years, that the statutory services are disjointed and ineffective. What the KC story tells us, I believe, is that we need an organisation that can use much of its expertise, but which is also well-run and accountable in its procedures and its finances. That would be the “match made in heaven”; I suspect that the ideal solution needs another charismatic individual who can start it off but who has the wisdom to leave the rigorous financial, safeguarding and other processes to others who have different, but also essential, talents.
      In conclusion, as you suggest, the collapse of KC – caused, one might deduce, from the failure of its founder to be realistic about her own limitations or humble enough to seek help from those with different skills – leaves the same problem that has always existed, with one less organisation to help some of those young people who are the hardest to help and for whom the statutory services really don’t have the answers. We need an organisation to rise up post-KC, to take the work forward in a way that is accountable and doesn’t depend on one individual. Don’t know if that will happen though, and Harriet’s article, as you say, doesn’t address that in any way!

      • cartimandua

        Jane every single organization which provides any service for the most disturbed hard to reach young people has “allegations” made by one usually previously abused child about another child or a member of staff.
        Its what happens when working with that group of kids.
        They don’t have the financial rug pulled because of it.
        False allegations of abuse were made by a client child. KC was not told at the time so it was not possible to have a police investigation and clear it up.
        KC said to matching donors “keep your money until it is sorted” and crash.
        I cannot see there is any malfeasance in any of it merely spite from ignorant people , media, and government.
        Look at some of the comments on here about CB’s possible sexuality and actual ethnicity.
        It would be great if some other agency or charity would provide another street level therapeutic community.
        In order to build trust with the hard to reach they would have to help them into homes, food, and maybe even pay for drugs to keep them out of gangs or being killed by gangs.
        Without CB or some other charismatic mouthy person there wouldn’t be 10,000 volunteers working “for free”.
        When so many studies have come out showing a paucity of services for the young the pillorying of a decent charity and decent people is burying bad news and is frankly absurd.
        1 million pounds for 1 child in care. 220k per year for a place in a young offenders institution with a 68% recidivism in year one.
        What on earth are they whining at KC for? It doesn’t make any sense at all.

        • Toast well done

          > The government just wants to pretend there is no problem and no need.
          Yes, that’s why they gave her £48 million, because they want to pretend there is no problem and no need.
          And that’s why they all had their photos taken with her and praised her work, because they wanted to pretend there was no problem.
          And the billions the government has spent on other scams.
          Obviously – the government only spends money on things they think don’t exist.

        • Except insofar as I feel I should rely on those who have a better understanding of KC’s financial management than I do, I don’t actually disagree with you, Cartimandu! I’ve said that we need another charity with sufficient drive and determination to step in to help those children and young people the statutory services struggle to help themselves.
          I know only too well that allegations of abuse etc against another client or member of staff almost always happen in organisations working with children, especially disturbed children, as I’ve seen it happen to a close friend, whose employers deserted him completely and whose life has been made extraordinarily difficult as a result. However, my understanding, from the little knowledge I have, is that there were also some serious financial irregularities; if you know better, then allegations made by Government and media are have indeed been desperately unfair and extremely counter-productive.
          Finally, I do not agree with the comments on here about CB’s ethnicity, sexuality or manner of dress; they show an almost criminal level of prejudice and discrimination – even hate – and are completely unacceptable in any forum. The frequency of such comments in forums such as this is, frankly, appalling, and part of me wants to withdraw from commenting because what’s the point when most other commenters are showing such unacceptable attitudes?
          I’m agreeing with you, in the main, not disagreeing. However, I don’t have the intimate knowledge of the charity that you do, only the experience of working with a charity founder who definitely had Founder’s Syndrome and lacked many of the skills needed to do the job… KC Version 2 needs to be set up asap to continue to help those children and young people the collapse of KC has abandoned so cruelly…

    • John Clegg

      Oh no, not you again.

  • Hippograd

    Number one test: Does it use vulnerable Kiddies of Kolour in its propaganda? If it does, it should not be supported. Kids Company was a blatant scam run by a devious narcissist. To the extent it “helped” its kiddies, it helped them create more of the problems vulnerable Persons of Colour are famous for creating in every western nation stupid enough to admit them.

    • Chris Hodder

      I’m going to call this what it is – blatant racism.

      • Toast well done

        Then you’re wrong.

        The Left uses minorities to get money, it blackmails, threatens and demands – talking about this isn’t blatant racism, or any kind of racism.

        • Jen The Blue

          The left has used racism to stifle debate, bully people to get its way and to promote its sick agenda.

          All the while, we have example after example of leftists who are total racists like Diane Abbott.

      • Hippograd

        Oh no! I’m a wacist! And I wouldn’t have given the con artist Camila Batmanghelidjh millions of pounds to make things worse, not better, for vulnerable Kiddies of Colour.

        Look, wise and intelligent anti-wacist: it is not an argument to call an opinion “wacist”. It is merely a way of evading what is at question.

  • CalUKGR

    I was always under the impression that the sartorially challenged Ms Batmanghelidjh was as mad as a bag of kittens. Maybe I should have said something at the time, I dunno.

  • pobinr

    Why was this private charity entrusted with £millions of public money when we already have a social services to give that money to?
    Was it even legal to do so?

    • Toast well done

      Think about it, if you were a politician would you turn her down and forevermore be attacked by the BBC as the evil enemy Tory who hates the poor and wants to see children die in the streets?

      Are you that brave?

      • pobinr

        Good point 🙂

    • cartimandua

      Because they did a better and cheaper job with a group of dangerous damaged youth than any other charity or state service.
      1 kid in care costs 1 million pounds. 1 year in a young offenders institution costs 220 K with a 68% recidivism rate.
      Get it now?

  • jess

    That’s a terrible illustration. You could try revamping the art colleges and getting a few teachers in who can actually draw (ha ha, as IF) instead of promoting this sub standard rubbish. Or just employing a good artist or doing without. I was hardly going to read a word you said after I saw the picture.

    • cartimandua

      They didn’t like what she had to say about the paucity of services for children so every means of “shooting the messenger” is used.

  • Jen The Blue

    The whole UK charity sector is screwed up. If a charity receives government money it is not a charity but beholden to the state. An arm of the state.

    Charities should never receive government grants (there MAY be distinction to be made between governments buying services from charities rather than giving them grants).

    We have the ludicrous situation where government is effectively paying “charities” to lobby itself.

  • 3aple

    Please. Will you help the needy this Christmas?

    This is Camilla. Last year, Camilla was running three homes, had millions of pounds to spend, TV appearances, and could bully celebrities and politicians with ease.

    This year, Camilla has only her own home to go to. Camilla has no more friends and can’t even get publicity from The Guardian, BBC or even Channel 4 News. Now when Camilla tries to bully celebrities they they take no notice. Camilla hasn’t spoken to a Prime Minister in weeks.

    This Christmas, will you spare a thought for Camilla. Just £3m would cover the pay owed to workers for a week.

    Please. Will YOU help? Just text “Curtains” to ‘oh, one two avoid four the future’ to donate just £3m a month.


  • cartimandua

    Well 3 I guess you will be thrilled to pay the millions for more in care and prison. Lets just hope it isn’t your family who end up victims of crime.
    KC dealt with very damaged and dangerous young people .State outcomes for them are expensive and poor.
    KC used the up to date neuroscience to run a program which worked. Ignorant people didn’t understand it.

  • Sally Morgan

    KC did not use up to date neuroscience – neuroscience ‘psychobabble’ was used to justify the approach. There was a questionable link between the science and what was actually which wasn’t evidence based or evidenced well. A much better example of a clear link between science and innovative work with young people is MAC-UK where there is a clear evidence base that is actively investigated and critiqued, with clear evidence as to who they are working with and what the positive outcomes actually are.