Kids Company: Alan Yentob confident backers of collapsed charity can continue to support children

The children's charity's former chair says the way Kids Company has been treated is 'disgraceful'

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The Independent Online

Alan Yentob says he is confident that financial supporters of the collapsed charity Kids Company will be successful in setting up a new organisation to take on some of its work with disadvantaged children.

Mr Yentob, the former chair of Kids Company, will appear before the Commons Public Administration and Constitutional Affairs Committee on Thursday with the charity’s chief executive Camila Batmanghelidjh.

Promising a robust defence of his actions, he said the way Kids Company had been treated was “disgraceful”. Speaking to The Independent, Mr Yentob said: “This needs to be told – the idea that [the charity] was not well-managed is really unfair.”

Mr Yentob, who presents  the BBC arts show Imagine, said he was in contact with several of the charity’s former philanthropist supporters, including the hedge-fund manager Stuart Roden and Nick Lawson, managing director at Deutsche Bank. “They are setting up a charity to pick up some of the work that we did,” he said.

The Commons inquiry will examine the level of public funding given to Kids Company. Education Secretary Michael Gove blocked support by the Department for Education, but the Cabinet Office stepped in and Kids Company received a grant of £3m days before its collapse, despite advice from a senior civil servant that it was unlikely to represent value for money.

Mr Yentob is likely to be asked about the email correspondence he had with the Cabinet Office in which a risk assessment written by Kids Company warned of starvation, modern-day slavery and rioting as possible consequences of the closure of the charity, which claimed to work with 36,000 vulnerable children. “Without a functioning space for hope, positivity and genuine care, these communities will descend into savagery due to sheer desperation for basic needs to be met,” the risk assessment said. Yentob said this was not intended in any way as a threat.

Ahead of the hearing, Mr Yentob said politicians were not giving sufficient consideration to the ongoing problem of social deprivation among young people. “There’s a denial about what’s going on in relation to child protection. It’s ridiculous, terrible and tragic that [the closure of Kids Company] has come about in this way.” He said civil servants had been warned “year after year” of the charity’s monetary pressures but that “all the allegations about financial mismanagement” against the charity were not substantiated. 

Mr Yentob suggested that Kids Company might have survived if it had not been for what he regards as spurious media allegations of sexual misconduct involving the charity’s clients. The revelation in July that an investigation had been opened by the Metropolitan Police’s Sexual Offences, Exploitation and Child Abuse Command was hugely damaging to Kids Company’s ability to receive funding from donors.

Without a functioning space for hope, positivity and genuine care, these communities will descend into savagery

Alan Yentob

Mr Yentob said the matter concerned a young couple and he believes that the idea Kids Company’s management was “in any way complicit in sexual misconduct will be found to be completely untrue”.

Talking of his recent treatment by the press, Mr Yentob said that during the phone-hacking scandal his voicemails were intercepted "twice a day" over a seven-year period.

He has received £85,000 in compensation from Mirror Group Newspapers, publishers of the Daily Mirror. 

Mr Yentob has also been the subject of front-page articles in The Sun in recent weeks, including one that focused on the alleged financial mismanagement of The Space, a digital arts project. 

A BBC One documentary on Kids Company’s collapse, provisionally titled The Rise and Fall of “The Angel of Peckham”, will be shown early next year. The director Lynn Alleway had already been filming at the charity when it was engulfed by negative headlines and stopped operating.

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