Kids Company charity in police probe

Scotland Yard sign Image copyright Reuters

An investigation into a number of allegations of crime involving the children's charity Kids Company has been launched by the Metropolitan Police, the BBC has learned.

The inquiry is being led by the complex case team of the Sexual Offences, Exploitation and Child Abuse Command.

Kids Company said it was not aware of the nature of any allegations and its priority was the safety of its clients.

Police want anyone with information or concerns to contact them or the NSPCC.

Kids Company provides practical, emotional and educational support to some of the most deprived and vulnerable inner-city children and young people from across London.

The charity, which was founded in 1996 and also has centres in Liverpool and Bristol, is run by Camila Batmanghelidjh.

Counselling concerns

The investigation into Kids Company was believed to have been triggered by testimony from a former employee given to a BBC Newsnight and BuzzFeed News investigation.

An independent expert advised the BBC that the claims raised concerns about the safeguarding of young people. Details from the interview were passed on to the authorities, with the individual's consent.

She was one of three former employees who have told BBC Newsnight and BuzzFeed News about individual serious incidents at two of the charity's sites which they say were not passed on to the police or social services.

Two of these former employees have now been interviewed by the police and the London Borough of Southwark's social services.

The allegations made to the BBC, spanning five years, relate to a small number of incidents. However, the police and local officials fear that, if staff at the charity have failed to pass information on, they need to investigate fully.

There are concerns that young local people may be in need of counselling and support.

Southwark has asked the NSPCC to run a helpline for people who may have been affected.

The charity can be contacted on 0808 800 5000.

'Robust policies'

In a statement Kids Company said its "first priority is the safety and security of all the children, young people and adults we support and protect".

It added: "The organisation operates robust policies and procedures that ensure all Kids Company's clients are protected and that staff work safely with clients at all times.

"Kids Company's policies and procedures are externally reviewed regularly by an expert consultant and are governed by a risk sub-committee comprised of senior clinicians and representatives from the board of trustees.

"All allegations of misconduct between Kids Company employees and clients are immediately reported to the police if required."

Earlier this month the charity faced questions about the way it was run and whether government funding would continue.

Kids Company is well known nationally and has received donations from celebrities ranging from author JK Rowling to the band Coldplay.

Image copyright PA
Image caption Camilla Batmanghelidjh is the charity's chief executive

The charity, whose chair of trustees is Alan Yentob, the BBC broadcaster, also enjoyed political support. Chief executive Ms Batmanghelidjh spoke at the 2006 Conservative conference.

Recently however, Newsnight and BuzzFeed News revealed that the charity had been embroiled in an argument with the Cabinet Office, which demanded the resignation of Ms Batmanghelidjh as a condition for receiving a one-off £3m support grant.

The grant was intended to help restructure the charity to make it financially sustainable.

The charity has said Ms Batmanghelidjh will take up a new advocacy and clinical role and will it appoint a new chief executive. Ms Batmanghelidjh denied claims the charity had been mismanaged.

Ms Batmanghelidjh said she was shocked by the latest investigation.

"Kids Company and its staff take the welfare of children very seriously," she said.

"We are cooperating with the police fully. If these allegations are true, I am filled with horror at the thought that someone may have been harmed in our care and we were not aware of it."