In the past few days, the closure of Kids Company has dominated the news. To an outsider, their rapid demise has come out of the blue. There were undoubtedly financial issues as Kids Company struggled to keep up with the volume of self-referrals from young people, operating an open door policy. I have a lot of sympathy for all those affected. Kids Company was a life line for an incredible amount of children and young people, many of whom had been failed by statutory services. The staff, who were paramount in delivering the services and support that these young people so desperately needed, are equally as dismayed.
The situation has made me reflect on the role of charities as opposed to statutory services. As someone who receives support from both CAMHS and a charity it raised some questions for me. Are charities picking up the slack? We know that there is a real issue when it comes to funding health and social care services. I was horrified to read an article in the Guardian which mentioned that only 1 in 9 children in need can be supported by social services. That isn’t right. It’s imperative to look out for the most vulnerable young people in order to give them the best chance of getting on in life. How much of that is the job of charities and how much of that is a job for statutory agencies? In an ideal world, I’d say that it’s a job for both. When agencies such as CAMHS and social services have the capacity to work with young people in need, the voluntary sector can compliment the work. However, when the burden of care falls almost entirely on a charity as local agencies cannot cope, it’s a risky position. Many of the young people who turned to Kids Company did so as they were not able to receive help from anywhere else. Now who will they turn to? If statutory services were unable to pick them up initially, will they be able to now?
The voluntary sector is amazing. I am a firm believer in the brilliant change that charities can bring about. If the government will not commit to spending what is needed for statutory services to do their job, then they would do well in not reducing their contracts and grants to charities. Is it any surprise then, that that’s exactly what they’re doing? Between 2010-2013 government funding for all charities fell by 11%, but funding for children and young people’s charities fell by 18%. When you couple that with the gaps in statutory agencies, it doesn’t paint a picture of a society run by those who particularly care whether or not the most vulnerable are protected.
Camila Batmanghelidjh has said that she feels silenced by the government as they felt she was too outspoken and raised issues around child protection which they’d rather keep quiet. I wouldn’t be surprised. The reality is though, that thousands of young people who desperately need support will be left without. Those who never reached Kids Company’s doors, who have never reached the case load of social services and most likely never will, are still in need. The issues that young people face are still just as prominent, the only difference being that we have now lost one thread of hope. I sincerely hope that the government finds a shred of humanity and starts to look out for those who need it.