A response to the closure of Kids Company

Posted on: 07 August 2015

Written by: Michael Chandler

In the wake of the closure of Kids Company, our Programme Director, Michael Chandler and CEO Adrian Jackson outline the issues this raises....

Following the chaos and uncertainty after the closure of Kids Company, there are a number of issues which need addressing.

Early comments  from government have suggested  that local authorities will be picking up the cases from Kids Company. Boris Johnson stated he was keen to ensure that the children were safe, going on to say “what I want is to see the other voluntary organisations that we support through City Hall...move in and provide some help.” The Cabinet Office stated it was working with local authorities to ensure young people "have access to the services they require".

These comments underline two key issues about how little those in senior office understand the ways organisations such as Kids Company work with vulnerable young people in our current climate.

The first is the notion that we are dealing with ‘cases’, numbers, that can simply be passed on to another organisation to take on and sort out – rather than the vulnerable, unsettled, unique young people they are, many who take months to get to know, many who have issues around trust, and many of whom will have built relationships with Kids Company staff over the course of months, maybe years, that can not just be instantly replicated on handing them to another organisation to support.

The second point is that, even if it were that simple – which organisations or local authorities have the capacity, knowledge or skills to suddenly take on the substantially increased workload this would entail? It is precisely due to the lack of capacity of local authorities and increasingly overstretched under-resourced social services that charities like Kids Company have had to pick up and manage more complex cases.

Cardboard Citizens’ young people's programme ACT NOW also supports young people that either have been homeless or are at risk and vulnerable. We know only too well the challenges of supporting young people in crisis – many without a place to sleep or facing being kicked out of their homes, some with mental health, drug and addiction issues.

Increasingly charitable organisations like ourselves are having to directly support more young people in crisis and with multiple complex needs than ever before, in the absence of clear, structured and accessible support from local authorities or social services.

For the most vulnerable, most isolated – children, young people and adults – it is the building of trust and confidence that leads to the biggest progression, the biggest outcomes, the biggest successes.

Building these trusting relationships can take months, even years, to build up. Very rarely weeks, and never days. And it takes time to move children and young people on to other support.

Whilst there appears to have been a catastrophic failure of financial management and governance at Kids Company, it is far from the only charity that has or is facing financial challenges at present. According to the charity Children England, there are 60,000 children's charities across the UK, and their Government income has dropped by £150 million in the last year alone.

And whilst schools funding is protected, there are £450 million cuts planned for ‘non-school provision’, e.g. that provision that supports those young people out of education – the most vulnerable.

In situations where organisations like Kids Company do have to shut their doors, there needs to be a much more gradual transition to these ‘other support agencies’. One answer might be to pay the Kids Company staff to join local authority ‘transition teams’, identify other organisations locally that can feasibly take on the workload, and provide funding for them to do this. It will be much more cost-effective to get this transition and future support right now, than deal with the challenges it will pose for those 6,000 children further down the line.

This case should and does act as a wake-up call for many in the charitable sector, particularly those who sit on the boards of charities, that they have a very real responsibility to be duly diligent and careful. If they are unable to do this, they should think very carefully about making way for others who can. In this case, it’s not putting it too strongly to say that lives really are at stake.

Michael Chandler, Cardboard Citizens Programme Director and Adrian Jackson, CEO and Founder.

 

With thanks to

Arts Council England Lottery funded