If Kids Company were a bank…

For the present, let me hold it to be the case that Kids Company did good work.

I think it reasonable to make that assumption on these grounds:

  • a study by the London School of Economics, authored by Prof Sandra Jovchelovitch, who, in the words of the Daily Telegraph, ‘heaped praise’ on Miss Batmanghelidjh. The study concluded that Kids Company’s work had made a ‘substantial difference’ to the lives of the children and young people it worked with. The study was funded by the charity, though this does not imply it is tainted.
  • another study, as reported by the Telegraph, by the Centre for Social Justice, the think-tank founded by Iain Duncan Smith, focussed on the children who used its services. It concluded that there are many with “desperate” needs not being met by local social services and that, ‘We have heard of such children and young people cycling in and out of statutory services without receiving the sustained help they need; but for the extraordinary work of voluntary sector organisations (VSOs) like Kids Company, would be entirely without support’.
  • that the charity’s Chairman (Alan Yentob) is not someone one would assume to be easily hoodwinked.

The Government is also much implicated in the matter as Kids Company’s web site makes clear:

‘In April 2013 we were awarded a government grant of £8million across two years. We were subsequently awarded an extra £1 million across the two years for our Summer Residential programmes.’

This would normally be thought to indicate a degree of commitment and an expression of regard for the work undertaken.

Even if one assumes a degree of error and misjudgment

I have no direct knowledge of the matter, but even if one assumes that, as with any organisation, not everything was as good as it could be, that in some areas Kids Company tripped over its own feet, misdirected itself, that does not seem to justify the peremptory way it has been hung out to dry by ‘philanthropists’ and commercial sponsors, still less by Government.

So far as commercial sponsors and ‘philanthropists’ are concerned, their rapid withdrawal of support demonstrates only too clearly the dangers of relying on such funding. In some cases at least, such support amounts to vanity funding, the PR judgment that to be associated with a particular cause redounds to the reputational credit of the funder – fair weather friends with weak knees. On the other hand, Government seems similarly susceptible.

Speaking human

But what really counts here are the numerous individuals who will now be, at the very best, ‘referred to’ – a bloodless formulation in the circumstances – agencies and local authorities that it is commonly acknowledged have neither the resources, nor necessarily the skills to fulfil the role that Kids Company users require of them. And sticking to the human aspects, surely it cannot be thought that Kids Company’s users can simply be handed from one caseworker to another, as one might a parcel.

It is the nature and quality of the particular, individual relationship between caseworker and user – relationships often built up over time, and not simply ‘transferable’ to another – that is the key concern here. Or should be.

So here’s the rub: if Kids Company were a bank in trouble about to collapse, Government would step in to rescue it, notwithstanding any degree of corruption, mismanagement, venal behaviour that had led to that point. In this context you may think it queer that it was suggested that Kids Company was in error in paying staff monies owed from the last tranche of Government money it received given that errant bankers in miscreant and collapsing banks received their salaries – and some a bonus for good measure.  If Kids Company were a bank, it would be rescued

Were you to be a commercial company building housing you’d be in line for Government support – ‘Communities Secretary launches £26 million fund for house builders to demonstrate the range of high quality homes for first-time‘  – notwithstanding that house builders are not generally thought to be in a state of penury.

Assume worst case scenario

For the sake of argument, let it be assumed that Kids Company was organisationally and financially a total mess – I personally make no such assumption. That does not absolve society, through the power of Government, from taking responsibility for the charity’s users in a meaningful way. Following other examples of state rescue, this would mean putting together a package that would ensure that the work of the organisation could continue, drawing on its skills and web of relationships that had previously been feted as so successful. If the kids had been bank customers, they would be OK. But they are not. So they are not.

In the meantime, better to be bank, whether failing or not.

8 responses to “If Kids Company were a bank…

  1. “that the charity’s Chairman (Alan Yentob) is not someone one would assume to be easily hoodwinked.”

    History has shown conclusively that botney was and is an egomaniacal meejah berk. “Those that live by the sword, die by the sword” applies to both botney and Batmansgirlfriend. She replaced management with heroism, he replaced governance with ‘look at me, I’m the chair of a rilly kewl charidee’. What’s the word I’m groping for ,Bernard? ‘Self-aggrandisement’ methinks. Wevs. Ego killed KC. and yes, KC did masses of good work, lest my reader not think otherwise of my views, not for one moment.


    • Yes, there may be much in what you say. I did wonder at the time whether I was being too generous in approbation. Having said that, full story not out yet – or I’ve missed it.


      • you’ve missed it. Private Eye, with some justification, abhor Yentob. They covered the unfolding downfall of Botney [a missed opportunity for a Hitler Downfall video parody, btw ] in detail. He’s been demoted at the Beeb, and caned by Margaret hodge at some inquiry in/at westminster or other. Pillock.


  2. Dear Bernard,

    Great article.

    I forwarded it to my friend who worked for Kids Company, she paid you a complement which I will pass on “ You talk a lot of sense!”


    Jane Roberts


    • Well, Jane, thanks for approbation. It really is appreciated. Thanks also for sharing this with your Kids Company friend, and her positive comment. Is your friend, or anybody else, able to say how it goes for the ‘kids’ who up to now were connected to KC?


  3. Arthur, thanks for this (the quote). It rings bells. I’m off to read the whole piece. No doubt it’s a theme that will be pursued.


  4. “And sticking to the human aspects, surely it cannot be thought that Kids Company’s users can simply be handed from one caseworker to another, as one might a parcel.”
    BSp, just now.

    “I would like then to ask this: what is it, in our behavior, that we can call specifically human? That is special to us as a living species? And what is it that, at least up to now, we can consign as merely machine behavior, or, by extension, insect behavior, or reflex behavior? And I would include, in this, the kind of pseudo-human behavior exhibited by what were once living men — creatures who have, in ways I wish to discuss next, become instruments, means, rather than ends, and hence to me analogs of machines in the bad sense, in the sense that although biological life continues, metabolism goes on, the soul — for lack of a better term — is no longer there or at least no longer active. And such does exist in our world — it always did, but the production of such inauthentic human activity has become a science of government and such-like agencies, now. ”
    PKD, 1972



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