In case you haven’t seen it – what follows is the written evidence of a Kid’s Company employee that was submitted to the House of Commons Public Administration Committee. It is quite devastating in the breadth of the allegations made. The original can be seen here .
The witness, known only as ‘A8’ says as follows:
I would like to preface my remarks by saying that I believe that over the years, Kids Company has provided vital support to thousands of children, young people and families and employed hundreds of hard-working, dedicated staff who were totally committed to their
I am profoundly sad that the Charity folded; and in such a sudden and ignominious way. I am also extremely angry at the way it was, essentially, run into the ground because of poor, high-handed, short- sighted management.
I had fervently hoped that, once financial experts were brought in to look at possible restructuring, the seemingly inevitable collapse could be prevented. There were no reserves in place to ensure that clients and staff would be protected should the Charity fail, and hundreds of them have been left in serious financial difficulty. Those staff who had been encouraged to submit monthly invoices for their work, were assured that they would be paid, even when it was clearly known that the Charity was about to close and there was no money to do so.
The Charity was run by the CEO as her personal fiefdom, with no regard whatsoever for the financial implications. It was simply unsustainable to continue to take in anyone who asked for assistance and, in certain specific areas, ridiculous amounts of money were spent – in my view – wantonly and inappropriately.
One particular group of young adults – many of them in their late 20s – were known throughout the organisation as “Camila’s kids” and inordinate amounts of money and resources were lavished on them; creating envy and resentment among others. Many of these clients have been left high and dry, incapable of maintaining their erstwhile lifestyle. Decisions about the level of funding of many clients were made solely by the CEO, with no discussion with relevant professionals.
Timeline to Closure
6th May 2015 All Staff Meeting with Camila at which she informed us that she had struck a deal with the Government to secure continuous funding and that if Labour come to power we will have “full funding” in the future, She did, however, suggest that KC might have to become leaner and urged staff to consider other employment or take a sabbatical.
10th June 2015 All Staff Meeting with Camila at which she reinforced her message about considering the possibility of looking for other work. She reassured us that there was “enough money for 2015” but warned that in view of the Election result, next year might be more difficult.
7th July 2015 All Staff Meeting with Camila at which she told us of the Government’s insistence that she step down and her refusal to do so.
14th July 2015 An all-staff email was sent out by someone called Joe who introduced himself as working with Colin Whipp (from Price Waterhouse Cooper?) who was now acting COO and that all financial requests would have to be sanctioned by him.
27th July 2015 An all-staff email was sent apologising for the delay in meeting the payroll; claiming it was due to “miscommunication between banks”.
Subsequent emails are detailed by the Spectator here :
28th July 2015 At our weekly meeting our team was told that we should warn our clients that there would probably be no further allowances.
The payroll staff were eventually paid on Thursday 30th July – immediately on receipt of the £3M from the Government. A colleague was told by Colin Whipp’s associate that those staff who submitted invoices – and hadn’t been paid for 4 months – would be paid the following day.
That evening a Newsnight programme reported that historic allegations of child abuse had been made against staff at one of the centres and, apparently, a group of philanthropists who had pledged to match the Government’s grant, withdrew their offer. This, apparently, led to the Trustees feeling that they would be unable to generate sufficient funding in the near future and at a meeting on Monday 3rd that the company would have to close.
3rd August 2015 Allowances for the clients were distributed to the various teams and Centres. These allowances accounted for many thousands of pounds.
4th August 2015 All Staff Meeting with Camila – also present were Alan Yentob and Erica Bolton – at which they told us that, though they “hoped very much that it wouldn’t happen”, if at some future date the Receivers were called in, various legal procedures would be put in place involving closing of centres, seizing of documents etc and that we should be forewarned of that “possibility”. There was still an implication that everything was being done to prevent that happening, but I have subsequently learned that the decision to close had already been taken at the meeting of the Trustees & managers the previous day.
5th August 2015 I learnt from the from an interview with Camila on the 6pm news on Radio 4 that KC would close at 7pm that evening. At approximately 7.10pm I received an email from the Trustees confirming the closure.
11th August 2015 (a week after the closure), I went to Citypoint – nominally the temporary Head Office – to speak to Diana Kotei, the Head of HR, as I was extremely confused about my status regarding redundancy etc. There were a lot of people still working there – apparently some being paid and some there on a voluntary basis. Another colleague visited on Friday 14th and found the same situation and also noted that “brown envelopes and Tesco vouchers were still being distributed”.
My Responses to Media Allegations:
Mail on Sunday – 30.8.15:
I heard many references to money being sent to clients living overseas.(Nigeria and possibly Jamaica, too). I believe that the 29-year- old referred to in the article above is one of Camila’s “favourites”. It was widely known within KC that a couple of years ago that he had stolen a large sum of money (he had bragged that it was £15,000) from the Finance Department after hiding there until everyone had gone home. He had apparently denied it for some time, though he was the prime suspect, but then, allegedly confessed to Camila, who “forgave” him. This man – who has been in prison for theft and has been stopped from seeing his children except under supervision, due to his abuse of their mother – has been in rehab so many times that he could write a Rough Guide on the subject. I was told by one of the managers that last year alone KC spent £79,000 on private clinics for him.
I was also told that postal orders were sent out every month (a practice that has been going on for years) to prison inmates; at least one of whom is inside for murder.
The press has reported that Camila had 3 PA’s, but at time of closing I know of 5: Charlie, Fudge, Natalie, Andrew & Simeon.
White House – Grade II listed art deco house in Downage, London NW4
Lived in by Azam Yousefi – a close confidante of Camila, employed in the Finance Department and in charge of distributing the “allowances”: brown envelopes given out to clients on a weekly basis. Also living there on a long-term basis was a client whose application for asylum had been turned down and so was living in this country illegally. A young woman in her 20s who lived there for a time had a double bedroom, and a large living-room with wraparound terrace on the top floor. I think there may have been 2 other bedrooms. The indoor swimming pool was apparently out of bounds for the clients but I was told that Camila swam there regularly. Latterly, prior to the closure of the charity, one of Camila’s PAs (Simeon) was also living there.
A young woman I met on a bus journey to one of the All-Staff Meetings in Brixton, told me that she was a key worker mainly working with immigrant families. When I asked if they were asylum seekers, she replied that they were illegal. I wondered if her work was about helping
them to come to terms with their eventual deportation and she appeared to be taken aback and confided that they were “very good at keeping their heads down”.
Clients were sent on holidays: I was asked if I would accompany an extremely troubled young woman (who I only knew by reputation) to Ibiza, as another key worker had pulled out.
A keyworker took a client to a spa (possibly Champneys in Tring) for 2 or 3 days of pampering. The key worker’s boyfriend joined them for the night of 14th February so that he could spend Valentine’s Eve with his partner.
A client in his mid-20s was sent to New York First Class in order to see his girlfriend. This same client has allegedly been sent to the USA for several months all expenses paid – to keep him “out of the way” while investigations take place.
I was also told of an adult who was referred, after only an email diagnosis, to a hypnotherapist in Harley Street who charged £200 a session. Kids Company allegedly paid for a course of therapy, as well as giving the client money.
As reported in the media, Sasha & Jamie Handover (the children of Richard Handover, one of the Trustees) were both employed at KC; Sasha as a “Music Coordinator & Events Organiser” & Jamie apparently involved in “Sports Training” at the Treehouse.
There were many people who I discovered over time were related to each other. The so-called “Operations Manager” – a sweet, but totally inefficient woman of around 60, who kept odd hours – turned out to be the mother of one of the IT chaps.
It emerged in the press that Magbule Mulla (known to us all as “Bule) – who worked in the Finance Department – is the sister-in-law of Jeton (“Tony”) Cavolli who was Camila’s driver. I certainly was unaware of that familial relationship. Camila is reported to have declared that Bule was “someone who did her sewing”. The press have also reported that Tony’s two children had their private school fees paid by KC, an allegation that has been denied. (The children both attended Dauntsey’s School where the Chairman of Governors is one Richard Handover). Camila has also apparently refuted the claims that Tony was her driver; insisting that he is a therapist tasked with dealing with difficult young men and only had a car in order to go to their aid late at night. (In the time I worked there, I only ever heard him referred to as ”Tony the Driver”.) I have also subsequently been told that a sum in excess of £700,000 has been spent over the years on Harley Street therapy to treat Tony’s wife’s mental health issues.
In many instances, clients began “working” for KC – being paid cash to empty bins, move goods in and out of the Warehouse, go out in the van collecting donations. Typically, these were fit, healthy young men who were perfectly capable of working “on the outside” or, at least attending the Job Centre and claiming benefits. They would be paid £50 a day (often whether they attended or not) plus cash for a travelcard (which they often spent on other things; preferring to take their chances jumping the barrier at the tube station). These young men continued to be employed even when the Warehouse closed down (in January 2015). One of them – recently released from prison for knife crime – was there while waiting to be sent to China, because Camila believed him to be “spiritual” and would benefit from a year there studying martial arts. KC were renting his accommodation as well as “employing” him. Others had their rent paid and received substantial “allowances” (sometimes as much as £250 a week) because they were deemed “unable to manage to go to the Job Centre or Housing Benefit Office” by virtue of mental health issues.
When I questioned the wisdom of this, suggesting that surely our job was to help these young people to learn to negotiate and access the benefits system or they risked a lifetime of dependency on KC, I was told that I simply didn’t understand.
Several of my Team’s former clients have received cash – several hundreds of pounds – since the closure of the charity, which is apparently delivered to them by “Camila’s North London driver, Steven” but, of course, this could be Camila’s own money. (An unsubstantiated rumour is that Camila based herself at the White House for a few weeks immediately following the closure and that there was a large supply of cash stored there.)
I have also been told, by several different people, that some of the directors were “paid off” when they complained about financial mismanagement. The sums involved were £75,000, £35,000 & £90,000 and the story is that they were given a lump sum when they resigned, in return for a n assurance that they would keep quiet about their concerns.
Much of the anger that I feel about the sudden closure of the charity is not just on behalf of all the unpaid staff (several of whom are owed many thousands of pounds; having not been paid since March), but also because so many young people were kept dependent on large sums of money and never guided towards independence and now – overnight – have been thrown back into society without a clue as to how to cope. The sums of money varied so greatly that it, inevitably, fostered a culture of favouritism leading to furious resentment among these young adults.
Many members of staff are unable to find similar employment outside KC as they were never properly trained or fully qualified.
Other Observations in Brief:
Untrained key workers; people with no idea about boundaries, often leading to inappropriate relationships between key workers and clients.
Ineffective fundraising department. Many staff with no apparent role.
Ridiculous amount of money spent on Christmas party. (Over £50,000 on taxis alone)
Clients sent on inappropriate (costly) training courses.
Driving licences & lessons for clients without skills or jobs.
Donations of designer clothes being set aside to be given to favourites and their friends.
A 12-year-old being given £200 for trainers.
A 30-year old man’s rent( £800 per month)plus a generous allowance (£150 per week) being paid straight into his bank account for several years.
Pretty much anyone walking in off the street with a good enough sob story able to obtain money/food vouchers/accommodation.
Edited by Anna: If you can stand any more after reading this, try Harriet Sergeant’s evidence to the committee. It really is worse than even the media managed to make made it sound. An utter disgrace.
Quote: The shocking fact is that the people who eulogised Kids Company had no interest in talking to a young, usually black, kid and discovering the truth. They accepted Camilla’s story because it suited them. Association with Kids Company made them look and feel good. The black young people in the background were merely accessories to the image they sought to project. They used Kids Company to promote themselves and Camila exploited that need. So politicians won voters; music fans were impressed: journalists won awards. Everyone gained except the young people, the charity was meant to be helping.