There are many lessons to be learnt and questions to be asked following the collapse of Kids Company. Some of these must be laid at the door of the charity and most importantly all seven of the Trustees. No one can escape from the impression that Camilla Batmanghelidjh the CEO of the charity was a strong character and willing to challenge people and institutions that have intimidated many powerful people. This presents a particular challenge for any Trustee body and having a strong character in the Chair of the charity can be a big asset in this situation. However it is noticeable that outside of Alan Yentob who was Chair of the charity, that none of the remaining 6 Trustees are recognisable names, nor do most of them have any contemporary experience of other charities. Along with the significant risk of having a strong willed and unaccountable CEO, if the Chair is also strong willed and lacks a board willing to hold them to account in a robust manner, the risk of the Chair and CEO falling out in a manner that brings the charity to a point of collapse or agreeing together to act in a manner that puts the charity in difficulty is significant. One of the additional issues that can have an impact on the behaviour of Trustees, particularly inexperienced ones is the extent to which others who one would assume do know better are also implicit in the actions of the charity. It would be a tough call for a Trustee to call for a change of direction for the charity if the Chair and CEO are both committed to a course of action and can also point to the support of senior Government Ministers and civil servants, along with eye watering amounts of money coming to the charity direct from Downing Street.
This then raises the issue of the actions of the Prime Minister and his colleagues, along with his predecessors over many years. The purpose of the Cabinet is to set Government Strategy and ensure that the whole country benefits. Photographs of Prime Ministers and Chancellors eating ice creams, visiting fish shops, walking around building sites with spotless hard hats and taking meetings with the CEO of charities like Camilla is no more than window dressing, intended to re-elect these people and their political parties. If such visits led to changes in widespread Government Policy, most charities would be delighted, but the Government has already bolted that stable door through the lobbying act, ensuring that charities cannot influence Government Policy. However irrespective of the actions of senior Ministers in terms of their visits and speeches, to allow Government money to be spent on individual charities without any sign of conventional accountability is no more than corruption. That a charity working in 2 London Boroughs was at one time in receipt of 20% of the funds being distributed by the Cabinet Office for the whole Government is unbelievable. We are also told that the balance of these funds were distributed to around 40 charities across England and Wales. That is 40 charities out of 164,000 charities in the UK. These decisions and their reasoning demand a call for a much wider explanation than the one being provided to explain what happened to Kids Company. Let us hope that MPs don’t ignore this wider picture!