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David Cameron: Right to give Kids Company 'last chance' £3m

Published 07/08/2015

Camila Batmanghelidjh rejected claims of financial mismanagement at the Kids Company charity
Camila Batmanghelidjh rejected claims of financial mismanagement at the Kids Company charity

David Cameron has defended the Government's decision to give £3 million to Kids Company, insisting it was right to give the charity "one last chance".

The Prime Minister said he was "sad" the charity's work was over but it was right to use taxpayers' money to save the scandal-hit organisation, which has faced mounting criticism.

Kids Company founder Camila Batmanghelidjh has defended her role amid allegations of sexual abuse, violence and drug taking involving young people in its care.

She also rejected claims of financial mismanagement at the charity, which was forced to close its doors this week after funding ran out.

A recent £3 million grant given to the charity by ministers, against the advice of senior civil servants, was partly used for salaries.

It has been reported the decision to pay staff with the money triggered the decision by ministers to claw back the cash.

Mr Cameron, speaking on a visit to the National Citizen Service (NCS), a social enterprise helping teenagers with training and life skills, said: "The Government thought it was the right thing to do to give this charity one last chance of restructuring to try and make sure it could continue its excellent work.

"Sadly that didn't happen not least because of the allegations that were made and private donors withdrawing their money.

"But I think the Government was right to say, 'Let's have one last go,' to try and keep this charity going, given the excellent work its done for so many young people."

Mr Cameron added: "Obviously I'm sad that this charity that's done brilliant work with young children has come to an end.

"The most important thing now is we look after the young children that Kids Company was helping in their lives.

"So it's sad it's come to an end, it did good work and that's why the Government supported it."

Mr Cameron made the comments as supporters of Kids Company marched to Downing Street to campaign against the charity's closure.

An investigation by BBC2's Newsnight and BuzzFeed News heard allegations that staff knew of complaints from girls, then aged 16 to 18, that male clients of Kids Company in their 20s had been forcing them to have sex and commit sexual acts.

Two witnesses alleged that complaints had been made known to relevant members of staff at the Urban Academy in Southwark.

But Ms Batmanghelidjh said police had brought the allegation to the charity's attention recently and it would have "absolutely dealt with it very robustly" if it had emerged before then.

The allegations of sexual abuse were blamed by the charity for the loss of a donation which could have helped secure its future and Ms Batmanghelidjh said it had been "very irresponsible" to release the information.

She also denied an allegation that she had advised a staff member not to press charges after he was attacked by a young client with a snooker ball at The Arches II centre in south London. The perpetrator is serving a prison sentence for murder.

Ms Batmanghelidjh did accept it was "irresponsible" not to have reserves at the charity to make up for any shortfall in donations.

The Government was forced to hold crisis talks to draw up emergency plans to provide support for children following the sudden closure of the charity, which operated in London, Bristol and Liverpool.

Up to 36,000 vulnerable children and young people received help from Kids Company, and there are fears many could slip through the net unless immediate plans are put in place to continue services.

Labour has called for the National Audit Office to investigate the flow of taxpayer money to Kids Company.

In an interview with LBC, Ms Batmanghelidjh said it was "not true" the Government was unaware a £3 million grant to Kids Company last week was going to be partly used for salaries.

She also claimed Minister Oliver Letwin had told her he would find £20 million for Kids Company.

A drop-in centre run by the charity in Bristol will continue to offer a service for the next month, the city council has announced.

The Island in Silver Street offers drop-in services and was working with around 200 young people when Kids Company closed on Wednesday.

Bristol City Council has commissioned Creative Youth Network to run the service for the next four weeks, employing nine former Kids Company staff.

Mayor of Bristol George Ferguson said: "I'm pleased to have enabled the funding of this important service for a longer period.

"Already it has meant a seamless continuation at The Island, and now there will be more time over the summer to support young people, work carefully to meet individual needs and arrange longer-term support where it is needed.

"I am grateful to Creative Youth Network and the dedicated former Kids Company staff who have played a vital role in continuing this service and the all-important personal relationships.

"People who had lost their jobs overnight have come straight back to volunteer, showing true dedication and passion for helping young people in the city."

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