That’s an awful lot of charities looking for an awful lot of money to pay rents, running costs and not to mention salaries. The radio interview came in the aftermath of the sudden collapse of the most high profile of those 60,000 charities, Kids Company.
Now I’m no mathematician, but even I know that’s a pretty decent ratio of charities to clients – maybe as high as one charity per 50 children. Crikey, is the UK really such a terrible place for children that we need 60,000 charities?
Or could it possibly be – and whisper it – that some of these charities (most of them) are actually superfluous? It might not be the most popular thing to say – charity is second only to religion in terms of reverence – but it needs saying. And judging by Kids Company, it needs saying fast.
It has taken a long, long time and over £40 million pounds worth of tax-payers' money, but the Government has at last pulled the plug on this very high profile organisation, founded by the allegedly ‘charismatic’ Camila Batmanghelidjh. I say allegedly because all I’ve heard on various media channel from this woman are hysterical accusations and petulance – hardly the model of dignity. If charisma is judged on a love of the limelight however, then this woman has charisma by the bucket load.
Apparently, there have been grave concerns surrounding the financial integrity of this company for several years. Why does that not surprise me? Not content with these huge amounts of public money, just last week the company approached their friends in government, asked for – nay demanded - an extra 3 million quid, and believe it or not, actually got it! Easy-peasy.
Despite repeated warnings from concerned civil servants, gormless Tory minister Oliver Letwin sent over the requested 3 million quid without even batting an eyelid. Letwin is the kind of man I wouldn’t even trust to feed my goldfish, but he’s on old pal of David Cameron, so that explains quite a lot.
Kids Company have indeed received staggering amounts of public money. The question is why? Why did successive governments prop this charity up with millions of pounds of tax payers’ money? Were they scared of Miss Batmanghelidjh?
Maybe. After all, the lady has a ferocious reputation and is used to getting her own way and is furthermore a lady, who, in the shape of her technicolour dream coat and headscarf, is not afraid to wear her ethnicity for all to see. Were Cameron and co afraid that she would dig deep into the depths of her petticoats and whip out the race card?
Add into the mix a mission to protect vulnerable children and you have a heady cocktail: children + ethnic minority = untouchable. Batmanghelidjh – a serial founder of charities – certainly knows all the right buttons to press when it comes to public funding. And the money duly came rolling in, lots and lots and lots of it. But where exactly did it all go?
To help vulnerable children of course. If the details were a little sketchy Batmanghelidjh didn’t seem to mind nor did government ministers – after all, fuelled by her own sense of righteousness, the lady and her organisation grew to such an extent that they became – like the banks – too big to fail. Kids Company had the government over a barrel.
Predictably in the wake of the scandal, Miss Batmanghelidjh went straight for the emotional blackmail card: “We’ve had to abandon a lot of children,” she tearfully told the media. Note the use of emotive vocabulary ‘abandon.’ Oh yes, here is a woman who knows precisely how to extract every last drop of sympathy (and money) from her supporters. She’s a master of the art.
So, have the streets of London, Liverpool and Bristol suddenly become dangerous places for kids? Batmanghelidjh would have you think so.
“We used to go along there (Kids Company) ask for money and they gave it us,” said the silhouetted young girl. “Then we used to go out and buy drugs. It was easy.” The confession, from one so-called client of Kids Company on national television news, could be a one-off, but could also be the tip of a very large iceberg. What actually went on there is anyone’s guess.
Oh what irony. Government money used to fund teenage drug habits…
In the aftermath of this sorry affair, one can only hope that public funding bodies at both local and national level take a long hard look at some of these so-called good causes and charities.
The cavalier attitude of Letwin and friends with regards to the disposal of public money needs to be replaced with a culture where assumption and entitlement is replaced by one of scrutiny and scepticism, because without it Batmanghelidjh and her ilk will soon resurface with yet another charity demanding public money - our money.
And even worse, they'll probably get it.