For at least 10 years Kids Company received funding from central government, including from the Department for Education and the Cabinet Office. In its last set of published accounts, for 2013, 23% of its income came from central and local government. The charity never reached a position where it was able to operate without government assistance and the government was well aware of this. Kids Company received larger grants than any other charity from DfE’s grant programmes .In June 2015 the Cabinet Office’s Permanent Secretary received a Ministerial Direction to award a grant to Kids Company of £3 million, despite his advice that the grant was not likely to be value for money. A grant of £4 million had also been made to the charity for 2015-16. On 5 August 2015, Kids Company closed as insolvent.
This raises a number of issues, not least how come in an age of austerity, and against the backdrop of the government’s commitment to secure better value for money for taxpayers (ie more bang for bucks) that one charity was given such preferential treatment and nobody was looking at how effective it was? It transpires that there was no agreement on how to measure its impact or outcomes. So, in effect, it was unaccountable. Until 2013, Government relied heavily on Kids Company’s self-assessments to monitor its performance. Was this the best way to support disadvantaged children, and was Kids Company deserving of more taxpayers money than other bigger and more longstanding charities working with disadvantaged young people ?. The Public Accounts Select Committee is looking into it now. The National Audit Office delivered its report on Kids Company this week and it raises many more questions for DFE and Ministers to answer. Weak management , governance and oversight was in evidence at Kids Company, but the same charge can be levelled at successive governments DFE and Cabinet Office officials. At one stage the DFE had an official attached to the company, for goodness sake. Needless to say the establishment will close ranks, no individuals will be held responsible, or take responsibility (remember that quaint idea) and the great and the good will issue statements about important lessons being learnt, etc, it was ever thus. Meanwhile, where has all our money gone? Kids company cant tell us, nor it seems can the government.