Watchdog accused of 'feet dragging' over Kids Company investigation

Watchdog is accused of ‘dragging its feet’ as it is urged to publish a report into the controversial children’s charity Kids Company

  • Kids Company collapsed in 2015 despite receiving £42 million from taxpayers
  • It had backing of celebrity supporters and then Prime Minister David Cameron
  • Charity Commission announced probe the same year following claims of mismanagement and allegations money meant for kids was being wasted
  • But six years later the watchdog has yet to actually publish report of its findings
  • The charities watchdog has been urged to ‘stop dragging its feet’ and publish a report into controversial children’s charity Kids Company – which was ordered six years ago.

    Critics point out that the Charity Commission’s inquiry into Kids Company – which collapsed in 2015 despite receiving £42 million from taxpayers as well as the backing of celebrity supporters and then Prime Minister David Cameron – has taken almost as long as the seven-year Chilcot Inquiry into the Iraq War. 

    The Charity Commission announced its probe the same year that Kids Company collapsed following claims of mismanagement and whistleblower allegations that cash intended for disadvantaged children had been squandered on designer clothes, trainers, alcohol and drugs.

    Last night, the watchdog said its inquiry had been delayed by a High Court case brought by The Insolvency Service, which earlier this year failed in its bid to ban former Kids Company directors from holding any future directorships, including its founder Camila Batmanghelidjh and former BBC executive Alan Yentob.

    The charities watchdog has been urged to 'stop dragging its feet' and publish a report into controversial children's charity Kids Company ¿ which was ordered six years ago. Pictured: Kids Company founder Camila Batmanghelidjh and former BBC executive Alan Yentob

    The charities watchdog has been urged to ‘stop dragging its feet’ and publish a report into controversial children’s charity Kids Company – which was ordered six years ago. Pictured: Kids Company founder Camila Batmanghelidjh and former BBC executive Alan Yentob

    Former Children’s Minister Tim Loughton said: ‘This was a high-profile case with serious questions about the award of millions of pounds of public money.

    ‘We really need the Charity Commission to stop dragging its feet and publish the findings to see what went so badly wrong so other charities can learn lessons from that.’

    The extraordinary hold-up is now set to be raised in the House of Lords by former Labour MP Kate Hoey.

    The baroness told The Mail on Sunday: ‘I’m genuinely astounded at how long it has taken the Charity Commission to get this report out. It has now gone on almost as long as the Chilcot Inquiry.

    The children's charity collapsed in 2015 despite receiving £42 million from taxpayers as well as the backing of celebrity supporters and then Prime Minister David Cameron (pictured with Batmanghelidjh)

    The children’s charity collapsed in 2015 despite receiving £42 million from taxpayers as well as the backing of celebrity supporters and then Prime Minister David Cameron (pictured with Batmanghelidjh)

    ‘I do not think the High Court proceedings should have been used as an excuse to delay what should have been a straightforward report into whether charity rules were broken.’

    Kids Company was founded by Ms Batmanghelidjh in 1996 to help disadvantaged children and young people in South London.

    With Mr Yentob, the then £300,000-a-year creative director of the BBC as its chairman, it expanded its operations to Bristol and Liverpool and won the support of celebrity figures including Mr Cameron, artist Damien Hirst, comedian Michael McIntyre and Hollywood actress Gwyneth Paltrow.

    But it closed down in 2015, shortly after Scotland Yard launched an investigation into allegations of abuse and exploitation at the charity. Police later dropped the case.

    The charity was accused of lavishing gifts on youngsters and even giving them money for drugs and alcohol.

    It also allegedly arranged for one of its clients to have private sex-change surgery and reportedly sent a drug addict on a £55,000 stay at a Champneys spa resort.

    Mr Yentob stepped down from the BBC amid claims he had sought to influence the Corporation’s reporting, but both he and Ms Batmanghelidjh deny any wrongdoing and say Kids Company fell victim to a smear campaign waged by enemies of Mr Cameron.

    Last night, a Charity Commission spokesman said: ‘Aspects of the inquiry were placed on hold pending the outcome of High Court proceedings.

    ‘The High Court issued its detailed judgment in February, which we have carefully considered. It remains our intention to publish our inquiry report as soon as possible.’

    Sir Bernard Jenkin, who led an investigation by MPs into Kids Company that resulted in a damning report, added: ‘I hope the report will concentrate on lessons for the future for current and future trustees of all charities.’ 

    Timeline of the Kids Company scandal  

    July 2015 –  Police launch a probe into allegations of abuse and exploitation at the charity, following the broadcast of a BBC Newsnight report. This was eventually dropped seven months later. 

    August 2015 – Kids Company collapses despite repeated warnings over its perilous financial state – just days after it was given a £3million government grant.

    October 2015 – National Audit Office questions why government money was paid to the charity with ‘little focus on what it was actually achieving’. 

    November 2015 – The Public Accounts Committee describes the charity as a failed ’13 year experiment’ and criticised both the Labour and Conservative governments for continuing to give public money against civil service advice. 

    December 2015 – BBC Creative Director Alan Yentob – who served as chairman of the charity – steps down after being accused of trying to put pressure on BBC journalists reporting on the scandal.

    2016 – MPs on the Public Administration and Constitutional Affairs Committee (PACAC) call on the BBC to reopen its investigation into Mr Yentob, over claims he ‘deliberately intimidated’ corporation staff. 

    2017 – Camila Batmanghelidjh publishes her biography. In interviews before its release, she defends sending drug addict called Dave to Champneys spa to relax with a ‘chocolate massage’ thrown in to boost his self-esteem. The trip allegedly cost £55,000. 

    October 2020 – The Insolvency Service begins its legal bid to disqualify Camila Batmanghelidjh and nine former directors from the charity, including Mr Yentob, from serving as company directors. 

    February 2, 2021 – A judge throws out the bid.  

     

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