A children’s charity boss under Government pressure to resign has demanded senior civil servants “bring it” and list their concerns over her leadership.
Camila Batmanghelidjh has been told to quit as chief executive at the Kids Company, which the Iranian-born activist founded nearly 20 years ago, and take an ambassadorial role if her charity is to receive a £3m Government grant. She said she always intended to step down as leader on her 20th anniversary.
The high-profile children’s campaigner said that the threat was “definitely malicious” and that “a lot of other charities are envious” of the Government money Kids Company has received in recent years, including £4.25m approved by the coalition for 2015-16.
Kids Company has been the favoured charity of No 10 in recent years, and Samantha Cameron even named Ms Batmanghelidjh as “an inspiration” in 2010. The charity helps disadvantaged children and young ex-offenders in London schools and centres but has been accused of poor financial management.
It has been reported that Mr Cameron has previously intervened in attempts by the Cabinet Office and the education department to cut Kids Company funding. Ms Batmanghelidjh denies any knowledge of this, and says she did not ask the Prime Minister to help resolve this row.
Ms Batmanghelidjh is unclear why the Government has suddenly threatened her position and said: “Don’t just generate these innuendos, if you [government officials] have really got something, bring it.”
She added that other children’s charities were “complaining” over perceived Government favouritism towards Kids Company, and understood their concerns that “we get resources and they don’t”.
“A lot of the other charities were envious of us. They don’t realise that we’ve got a caseload that they don’t have. I agree with them that organisationally charities shouldn’t be advantaged, but it’s because we’re helping with really traumatised kids,” she said.
Ms Batmanghelidjh said that Kids Company has created a “parallel NHS” because she has helped so many children. She argued that the charity had passed Government and independent audits, and questioned why the state had continued to fund Kids Company if there were significant problems.
Despite her apparent closeness with the Prime Minister’s family, it is understood that Ms Batmanghelidjh has not met Mr Cameron since shortly after he became Prime Minister in 2010. Her last meeting with Mrs Cameron is believed to have been around three years ago.
Although there have been accusations of financial mismanagement for some time, including handing out envelopes stuffed with between £50 and £200 to troubled youngsters, many donors have been taken aback by Government concerns.
A senior executive at a Kids Company donor said: “This has come as a complete surprise because if there was a dubious issue with the charity we wouldn’t have been big supporters [of it].
“Governance for charity money can be very complex and people hold charities to a high standard. My assumption is that the lack of governance basically means that process isn’t as tight as it should be – I remain hopeful that is the case until proven otherwise. Our experience [with Kids Company] is very positive and you have to trust that the charity commission does that [governance checking] on your behalf.
“There is a little bit of tone in some of the reporting that felt like it was sensationalism for the sake of it – this woman is borderline sainthood for the work she does.”
He said Ms Batmanghelidjh was “an incredible activist for the cause” and the current situation was “really unfortunate noise”. And, while she might have been too outspoken in the eyes of some, “no one doubts the integrity of the cause”.Reuse content