A former Deputy Children’s Commissioner has said that she was concerned about how few children Kids Company appeared to be helping, but she did not consider reporting it to government because Camila Batmanghelidjh was so influential.
Sue Berelowitz gave evidence to the Public Administration and Constitutional Affairs Committee’s inquiry into Kids Company yesterday.
She told MPs that it was only on her third visit to the charity, and at her insistence, that she was able to speak to any children.
“It was an unusual experience for me for a charity to not put its children before me,” she said. “What I saw was very few children using services.”
Bereolwitz added: "My concern was the gap between the rhetoric and the reality."
She also said that the charity had an exceptionally poor relationship with local authorities, to the extent that "the charity told me that one local authority had taken an injunction out against them".
Berelowitz said she told the local authority about her concerns and admitted that she should maybe have contacted the Charity Commission but that there “was not a clear avenue for me to go down”.
When asked about why she had not informed government of her concerns about Kids Company, she said: “It didn’t occur to me at the time.”
She said that much was made of the “powerful alliances that the chief executive [of Kids Company] had”. And that “it would have been difficult to make those kinds of representations” against her.
Berelowitz said she thought that all government grants should be made through the “normal processes” and on a “competitive” basis to protect against another incidence like Kids Company.
“Very large sums of money have not gone to other places where they could have been used,” because they were instead given to Kids Company, she said.
She also called for there to be a maximum term limit for how long someone can be a chair or trustee of a charity and suggested that external advisers should sit on the recruitment panels for chairs.