Kids Company boss Camila Batmanghelidjh denies 'mesmerising' PM

David Cameron and Camila Batmanghelidjh Image copyright Fiona Hanson
Image caption Kids Company founder Camila Batmanghelidjh, seen here with David Cameron in 2010, was courted by many senior figures

The founder of the charity Kids Company has denied claims she "mesmerised" David Cameron and senior politicians to gain millions in public funding.

Camila Batmanghelidjh said she gave "robust" arguments for her charity, which she expected to be scrutinised.

Speaking two weeks after MPs found the charity had shut due to a "catalogue of failures", she said she had been a victim of racism and media attacks.

The PM has said it was right to give the charity "every chance" to survive.

Kids Company, which supported deprived and vulnerable inner-city children and young people in London, Liverpool and Bristol, closed last August.

The report by the Commons Public Administration and Constitutional Affairs Committee (PACAC) laid heavy criticism on Ms Batmanghelidjh and the charity's trustees for "negligent financial mismanagement", "lavish spending", and failing to give robust evidence of its outcomes.

Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption Ms Batmanghelidjh says she has been the victim of malicious media attacks since allegation about the charity emerged

It also rebuked successive ministers for appearing to release public money to Kids Company "on the basis of little more than their relationship with a charismatic leader, small-scale studies and anecdotes".

Ms Batmanghelidjh "appeared to captivate some of the most senior political figures in the land, by the force of the chief executive's personality", the report added.

'Intelligent people'

Speaking to BBC Radio 4's Woman's Hour programme, Ms Batmanghelidjh said: "I think that it's sad that people think in this day and age that you can mesmerise people.

"I present arguments that I hope are robust, and people that I deal with I hope have the intelligence to scrutinise my arguments and make their own decisions.

"I would put the question to you another way - if I was capable of mesmerising the prime minister of this country, who have you voted for? Because that would be very dangerous."

In a wide-ranging interview, she also:

  • Admitted the charity was "run on a knife edge" for 19 years, but said she warned central government repeatedly that the charity would not survive
  • Rejected the committee's criticism of "extraordinary accounts of luxury items... being lavished on 'Camila's kids', a favoured group of clients", saying the incidents had been misrepresented in the media
  • Referring to one particular case where the charity paid for a client to go to the luxury spa Champneys, she said the individual had been psychotic, homeless and turned away by both NHS and private hospitals, and the spa had "a doctor and nurse available"
  • Claimed the attacks against the charity were "politically driven", because the government did not want "to admit to the scale of child abuse and childhood maltreatment in this country"
  • Said she had been a victim of malicious media attacks and "very racist" comments, including that she was "an immigrant working with immigrants and we should all go home"

Among the government grants called into question by the Commons report was a £3m payment to Kids Company just days before it collapsed.

Conservative minister Oliver Letwin, who overruled civil service objections to the grant, has said he believed it was "the right thing to do to give this charity one last chance to restructure".

At the time, Mr Cameron also said he believed it was right to give the charity a final chance to restructure and to "continue its excellent work".

Kids Company timeline of events

Image copyright PA

June 2015: Concerns raised by the Cabinet Office about Kids Company's request for a £3m government grant, but ministers approve the funding

July 2015: Ms Batmanghelidjh steps down, denying the charity has been mismanaged. The Met Police launches an investigation into allegations of failings and abuse linked to the charity.

August 2015: Ministers say they want to recover the government grant. The charity closes. Ms Batmanghelidjh tells the BBC that Kids Company was subjected to a "trial by media"

October 2015: Ms Batmanghelidjh and Kids Company chairman Alan Yentob (at the time also a BBC executive) appear before the Commons Public Administration Committee and again deny the charity was badly run. The National Audit Office says the charity received at least £46m of public money despite repeated concerns over its management

January 2016: The Met Police says it has concluded its investigation into allegations against the charity, and concluded there is no evidence of criminality

What went wrong?

The government has said it will review its grant-giving process in light of the committee's findings.

Last month, the Metropolitan Police announced that it had found no evidence of criminality after investigating allegations of physical and sexual abuse at the charity. Kids Company had always denied the claims.

Ms Batmanghelidjh defended the safeguarding procedures at the charity, saying they were far more rigorous than other organisations.

The full interview will be broadcast on BBC Radio 4's Woman's Hour programme on Friday, 12 February at 10:00 GMT.

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