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Kids charity boss stands down

Published 03/07/2015

Kids Company chief executive Camila Batmanghelidjh has reportedly been asked by the Government to take a lesser role
Kids Company chief executive Camila Batmanghelidjh has reportedly been asked by the Government to take a lesser role

The high-profile founder of a leading children's charity is standing down as its chief executive after concerns about its management cast doubt on vital taxpayer funding.

Camila Batmanghelidjh is moving to a new role within Kids Company as part of a shake-up which the organisation said was prompted by "unprecedented financial strain".

A shake-up had been pushed for by the Government, which was reported to have threatened to withhold a £3 million grant unless changes were made.

But Ms Batmanghelidjh insisted her switch was long-planned and claimed suggestions it was prompted by concerns over financial mismanagement were a "red herring" by Whitehall to distract from government failings on child protection.

Downing Street declined to be drawn on claims that Prime Minister David Cameron had previously overruled Department of Education efforts to remove funding from the charity, and insisted it had not briefed against her.

But acting Labour leader Harriet Harman, whose Camberwell and Peckham constituency is home to the charity, called on Mr Cameron to meet a promise that Kids Company would not be denied any much-needed money.

In a statement on its website, the charity said it was "being supported by the new government to create a more sustainable organisation and funding structure that will be better able to tolerate unpredictable income streams in the future".

Staff levels would be cut, it said, and Ms Batmanghelidjh would " assume an advocacy and clinical role after the appointment of a new chief executive" - but "core services" would continue.

Number 10 confirmed that the Cabinet Office had " requested changes to their management structure" to help put the work of the charity - which is heavily reliant on taxpayer funding for its work - on a "sustainable footing".

Dominic Cummings, a former adviser to Michael Gove at the Department for Education and a long-term critic of the PM - said previous decisions to axe funding over "financial chaos" at the charity were overruled by Number 10.

The DfE was told by Downing Street, he said, that Mr Cameron said they should "give KC what they want".

Ms Batmanghelidjh, who has run the charity since 1996 to provide support to vulnerable inner-city children, young people and families, dismissed suggestions of financial mismanagement and complained of attempts to discredit her.

"This argument has emerged recently because government is not facing its responsibilities robustly," she told BBC Radio 4's Today, challenging government officials to produce evidence of any such problems.

"I want to do clinical work - but that is not the point. We are having an argument about something that is a red herring. This is briefing to avoid the real issues.

"The type of briefing they are now delivering is one in which they are attempting to discredit me, so my message is weakened."

"I pray to God it is not coming from David Cameron and his team, I still have to have faith he wants to do the right thing by children."

Asked whether Number 10 was behind negative briefings, the PM's spokeswoman said: "That's not true."

She said the unusual intervention "reflects the fact that we recognise the important work that they do and the Government's commitment to helping to support children".

A Cabinet Office spokeswoman said: "Making sure that every child has the best start in life is our top priority, so we will continue to work with Kids Company to ensure its important work is sustained."

Ms Harman said: "They work with some of our most deprived and vulnerable children and young people.

"The Government made a promise to them before the election to fund them. They should keep their promise.

"The Government should work with Camilla who is the founder and inspirational leader".

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