Kids Company closure: Crisis talks held on supporting children


The Government has held crisis talks to draw up emergency plans to provide support for children following the sudden closure of Kids Company.

It comes as the charity's flamboyant founder Camila Batmanghelidjh lashed out at ministers, civil servants and the press, claiming the organisation was the victim of a "trial by media".

Up to 36,000 vulnerable children and young people received support from Kids Company, and there are fears many could slip through the net unless immediate plans are put in place to continue services.

Meanwhile Labour have called for spending watchdog the National Audit Office to conduct a full review of the taxpayer funding for Kids Company, which collapsed amid major concerns about its financial management.

Around 40 members of charities and voluntary organisations met Government officials in south London to start discussing plans to help the vulnerable children affected by the charity's closure.

Richard Curtis, founder of The Root Of It, an organisation which works to raise standards in special needs services in schools, told the Press Association: "It's about putting in services that are going to help these children so they are not abandoned.

"If there is not something put in place very quickly it's very likely that things will start to deteriorate in those areas with those families that Kids Company has been supporting."

He added: "It's very clear that a number of local organisations and charities and voluntary organisations want to be involved in providing support for the situation.

"Over the next few days a way forward will be identified by the Cabinet Office with local authorities and the other organisations who were present."

He said the question of how these services might be funded was discussed but a solution "wasn't immediately clear".

The meeting followed emotionally charged scenes on Wednesday outside the Kids Company centre in Peckham, south London, where the charity was founded 19 years ago.

Children and parents waving placards protested against the closure while staff left the centre in tears, exchanging hugs with families they had worked with.

Ms Batmanghelidjh said one child was so upset she had to talk him out of jumping off a platform in front of a train in a phone call.

The charity worked in London, Bristol and Liverpool, and councils, the Government and charities have all said the welfare of the children is their top priority.

Mr Curtis said: "The scenes we saw yesterday outside the Kids Company very much reflect how the families feel abandoned at this moment in time.

"What's important now is being able to provide and reassure them that something is being put in place so things don't spiral out of control, because a lot of the emotions come out of fear of the unknown about what is going to happen to them.

"So many of them have depended on the support of Kids Company."

The meeting comes as Ms Batmanghelidjh claimed elements of the Government had turned on her because she is "outspoken" and knows about high-profile sex abuse.

She told the BBC: "There is much more that is being suppressed and some of it involves historic sexual abuse of children involving very senior members of the establishment."

Adding: "There has been a culture of suppressing evidence of extensive childhood maltreatments by very powerful people. As I sit here in years to come the truth of all that will unfold."

Kids Company had a string of celebrity backers including rock band Coldplay and artist Damien Hirst, and was lauded by Mr Cameron as the embodiment of the Big Society.

But ministers and civil servants said its sudden collapse this week followed years of questions being raised over its financial management.

According to reports, Michael Gove said Government funding for the charity should be stopped while he was education secretary, but he was overruled by Mr Cameron.

Kids Company shut its doors yesterday after a donor pulled out of giving £3 million when they learned of allegations of abuse and sexual offences related to the charity.

Ms Batmanghelidjh said she had "honestly no idea" if the Prime Minister personally intervened to keep public money flowing to Kids Company three years ago.

Meanwhile, in a letter to Cabinet Office Minister Oliver Letwin, Labour's Lucy Powell asked for the National Audit Office to undertake a review of the public funding given to Kids Company "so important lessons can be learned".