Of all the animals of prey, man is the only sociable one.
Every one of us preys upon his neighbour, and yet we herd together.
The Beggar's Opera: John Gay

Sunday, 30 August 2015

"I predict a riot."

"Without a functioning space for hope, positivity and genuine care, these communities will descend into savagery due to sheer desperation for basic needs to be met."
Thus spake Alan Yentob (if BBC News is to be believed) in an e-mail to the Cabinet Office explaining why a further £3 million should be poured into the gaping maw of Kids Company, the only thing standing between us and criminal dystopia.

The author of this Jeremiad leaves no doubt of the consequences should funding not be forthcoming:
...a "high risk" of looting, rioting and arson attacks on government buildings...."increases" in knife and gun crime, neglect, starvation and modern-day slavery
This, apparently, is what London will be like without Kids Company - read it and tremble! No wonder civil servants have described the language used as 'absurd' and 'hysterical'. Interestingly, the document bears more than a passing resemblance to the literary style of Batmanghelidjh herself; a blend of psycho-jargon and self-importance (not to mention the odd dangling preposition):
Our cause for concern is not hypothetical, but based on a deep understanding of the socio-psychological background that these children operate within.
This last quote raises an intriguing point; if the beneficiaries of Kids Company can be repeatedly described as 'children', for whom it fills the role of 'primary care-giver', who exactly is going to be out rioting and burning down government buildings?

Surely it will not be the well-groomed and photogenic pre-teen girls marched under escort to Downing Street in matching t-shirts to tug at the nation's heartstrings - though I wouldn't put it past some of the mothers vociferously complaining on television about the derailed gravy train of free meals, clothes and residential activity holidays for their offspring.

Instead, I suspect the potential rioters belong to an altogether different stratum of  'clients' who came to light in the Mail today thanks to files leaked by 'a Kids Company insider'. By Batmanghelidjh's own admission elsewhere,
‘Because we have been going for 19 years, some kids that we had in the early days are now older. [...] To give them a daily routine we get them to do things round the place so they are hanging round.’ 
In real terms, this translates into adults - some into their thirties - on the premises on a regular basis and being given substantial cash handouts from Kids Company funds despite evidence of criminal activities and drug abuse.

Personally, I'd have thought that having a number of adult male drug users, some with a record of violence, constantly 'hanging round' would have severely compromised the charity's aim of providing vulnerable children with a place where they could feel safe.

Certainly it must have been more than a little traumatic for youngsters to witness the abuse of kitchen staff by a 26-year-old 'crack den landlord' angry that queuing for food reminded him of being in prison. There was an even worse ordeal in store for one girl:
A handwritten note claims he sexually assaulted a girl on Kids Company premises and worked for the charity in return for cash in hand.
Presumably he qualified for personal attention from Batmanghelidjh herself, like the 29-year-old drug addict, alcoholic and convicted thief banned from seeing his children because of his 'aggressive behaviour' - though it has to be said Kids Company's lengthy (and expensive) involvement in the latter case does not appear to have steered the man away from a life of crime:
 A note says he received a total of £70,000 last year from Kids Company – and stole a further £10,000 from it
It all begs the question, what has Kids Company actually accomplished if, twenty years on, some of its earliest 'clients' are still battening onto it for financial gain at the expense of today's children? Although Yentob's e-mail looks like a threat, it may also be an admission that the charity has - whether through misguided optimism or fear of recidivism (or reprisals) - been bankrolling a group of disaffected career criminals, giving them a common focus and a monstrous sense of entitlement.

Like the clueless women who bought 'handbag pigs' only to find themselves responsible a few months later for large, hungry and destructive boars with distinctly antisocial tendencies, Ms Batmanghelidjh appears to have ignored the possibility that some of the children in receipt of her much-publicised vicarious generosity could, if indulged and encouraged in their dependency, one day grow into something she and her organisation could not control.


  1. The whole thing comes across as a festering mess yet hardly anyone seems particularly surprised.

    1. 'Festering mess' sums it up very well.

      Her need for 'clients', whether she recognised it or not, gave her a vested interest in their continued dysfunction and dependent status.

      Any insider who knew the extent of funds diverted to pay rent, allowances and college fees for adults long past the 'Kids Company' stage must have realised that, sooner or later, the system would reach its limit and the whole thing would come crashing down.

  2. All this Batman guff and everyone's missing the asteroids about to hit us late September.

    1. You have to feel sorry for the official agencies; although there is currently no evidence of an imminent impact, they cannot, being trained scientists, say with complete and utter conviction that it will not happen, thereby leaving the door open for conspiracy theorists, doom-mongers and apocaholics to have a field day.

      Of course, should an asteroid then pop up out of nowhere à la Chelyabinsk, Nasa are going to have a lot of explaining to do.

  3. "It all begs the question, what has Kids Company actually accomplished ..."

    And for whom?

    1. Apart from providing Ms Batmanghelidjh with abundant media exposure, a personal chauffeur, private nurse, bespoke dressmaking and the exclusive use of a private swimming pool, it seems to have been a major job creation scheme (largely, if reports are anything to go by, for the offspring of the Great and Good or, alternatively, its own otherwise unemployable alumni)

      It's all summed up rather well at civilsociety.co.uk (search for Kids Company):

      Headcount went from 44 full-time equivalent employees to 495 in 2013 – an increase of more than 1,000 per cent over the time frame.

      In 2003 Kids Company’s total staff cost, including salaries, social security, recruitment, and training, was £1.5m and by 2013 it was £15.3m – an increase of 920 per cent.

      In 2013 wages and salaries accounted by £11.8m, making the average salary at Kids Company £23,800.

      Staff costs accounted for between 53 per cent and 67 per cent of total expenditure over the decade.