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David Cameron defends his support of Kids Company

Published 29/10/2015

Camila Batmanghelidjh, the founder of Kids Company.
Camila Batmanghelidjh, the founder of Kids Company.

David Cameron has defended his support for the troubled Kids Company charity amid repeated warnings about its financial viability.

A report by the National Audit Office (NAO) disclosed that £46 million of public money was poured into the now defunct charity despite officials raising concerns dating back to 2002.

Former children's minister Tim Loughton said that on one occasion his attempt to block a "very sizeable" grant had been overruled after its charismatic founder, Camila Batmanghelidjh, sent a "Dear David letter" direct to Number 10.

Speaking a press conference at the Northern Future Forum in the Icelandic capital Reykjavik, the Prime Minister insisted that he had been right to give the charity "every chance" to keep going.

"My role in this has always been to try and help keep that organisation going because it was doing very good and important work," he said.

"I always judged that it was worth giving it one more go to try to get it to be financially viable. In the end sadly, that wasn't possible.

"But I certainly think it was right to give Kids Company every chance of a sustainable, viable future and that's why it had access to public money."

The charity finally collapsed in August 2015 - just days after receiving another £3 million grant - following the disclosure that the Metropolitan Police had launched an investigation into claims of physical and sexual abuse.

The NAO described how if officials resisted Kids Company's demands for more funding, the charity would write to ministers warning of redundancies and the closure of services, while at the same time briefing the media.

Mr Loughton said that he was particularly annoyed at the way a request for money in 2012 had been "taken out of our hands", despite officials in the Department for Education raising "serious question marks" about the way the charity was run.

"You have to ask No 10 as to why final approval went through," he told the BBC Radio 4 today programme.

"I think it's just unfortunate that the great work that Kids Company did was used to sort of mesmerise people in positions of power to pay up or else."

He added: "Clearly the number of kids who were being helped by Kids Company was much lower than we were led to believe and it was just not sustainable."

A Downing Street spokesman said that he was "not aware" of Mr Cameron expressing a view about the grant awarded in 2012.

Ms Batmanghelidjh, meanwhile, rejected the NAO's findings, complaining that Kids Company staff and volunteers had been "too scared" to speak out in support of the organisation.

"Under the current climate of media frenzy and biased reporting, they are too scared to speak up," she said in a statement to BBC Radio 4's The World At One.

"Consequently an extremely distorted picture is being painted negating the extraordinary work these people did with some of the most troubled children and families.

"The state gave Kids Company money to do the job it couldn't do. It wasn't doing the charity a favour."

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