This is a slight departure from my normal subject matter and a personal note on the downfall of Kids Company. I call it a lament and not a obituary because I’m still hoping against hope that for such an organisation to just shut up shop and disappear in the space of a few days is some kind of aberration that will soon be corrected.
I’ve worked with Kids Company on projects before, delivering John Muir Awards to young refugees and ‘problem’ teenagers in Epping Forest. These projects brought a new audience into the natural environment, an audience that have too often been given the impression that it is ‘not for them’. Basically, I provided the nature, while the Kids Company staff did the hard work of nurturing their interests and giving them security and boundaries that were frequently lacking. In comparison, my job was easy.
It’s sad. Desperately sad. Kids Company may have, as it now appears, been run chaotically, but it has managed to hobble on somehow despite these perceived structural disadvantages for nearly twenty years. That it has closed now, at a time when it is probably more needed that at any point in its history is, frankly, a tragedy.
There are various allegations being thrown around, all in an alarmingly and suspiciously short space of time and none of which I will even mention here until they are anything more than allegations. It is the idea that public money going to a charity that is somehow anathema. Surely projects like this is exactly where it should be going. Charities like Kids Co are papering over the vast gaps that this government are gouging into social care, and one has to wonder why they have been so publicly hung out to dry.
£3m, in the scheme if things, is a piffling amount*. Compare that to the losses we, as a tax-paying public, have made on RBS. The truth is if Kids Co was a bank, we’d have been forced to buy it by now. The final straw, apparently, was that Kids Co have used this £3m to – shock horror – pay its staff rather than indulge in that old corporate default of ‘restructuring’ whenever there’s a problem.
Of course all this ‘restructuring’ appears to be with the sole aim of removing the pernicious influence of Kids Co’s founder. Camila Batmanghelidjh is an easy target (and lord knows I’ve made enough noise about this kind of highly visible charity founder and their ultimate motives). She’s outspoken, colourful, larger than life – even BASC would consider her too easy quarry. Probably.
She’s highly visible, so it is perhaps unsurprising that she’s been the target of some rather unsavoury knuckle-dragging abuse. It’s best not to ask yourself what this says about society when someone who, despite her obvious faults, is clearly devoted to helping the most vulnerable in society (below is a very, very, very small and clean sample of what I’ve gleaned from twitter.):
Or the comments under this Mail article (which are actually some of the tamer ones I’ve come across):
There’s also this notion that she has somehow ‘mesmerised’ political figures, which is clearly just a load of cobblers. They were only ‘mesmerised’ by the positive publicity they could garner. It’s a word that I’m not sure I’m alone in thinking has some odd connotations
But of course the reason I bring all this up is because of the larger repercussions this could have on environmental charities. To bring it back on track with the rest of my blog, the re-emergence of ‘You Forgot the Birds‘ – once again sticking their heads above the parapet to universal condemnation – is just one of the most vocal groups that has declared open season on charities. There are common themes; What you are doing is pointless or misguided; you’re doing more harm than good; you’re chasing the money; you’re propping up undesirables and stopping them from ‘getting on’; you’re preying on the vulnerable to meet quotas. It has all been rolled out this week. You can see why. To some extent, doesn’t it mean ‘they’ are ‘right’? It must be very appealing to deceive yourself that uncharitable, selfish behaviour is in actual fact the truly moral choice. Extrapolated, it’s frighteningly Randian.
This might just be a warning shot. So for our sector it’s important that we keep an eye open for these attempts to defame and demonise and stamp on them with the ridicule that they deserve.
* Yes, in my last post I claimed £4m was a huge amount, but different horses for different courses and all that. Although what horse would best constitute a dessert is anyone’s guess.