Since the collapse of Kids Company over the summer, two or three people have suggested to me that the whole charity sector is in danger of reputational damage and the imposition of increased and unnecessary regulation now that the horse has bolted.
There are many risks facing charities at the moment, not least funding and new restrictions should we be successful in highlighting the causes of poverty, homelessness and exclusion. But I don’t think charities should be too worried about any backlash relating to Kids Company.
Kids Company was unlike any charity I have ever come across. No other charity enjoyed the political patronage from three successive Prime Ministers enjoyed by Kids Company. No other charity has seen so much revenue poured into its coffers from the public purse. And no other charity has avoided (until now) the levels of scrutiny and accountability that most of us have.
The backdrop to all the above factors point to a breakdown of normal scrutiny and controls by central government dating back to the early 2000s. On six occasions, as we learned today, civil servants questioned further funding to Kids Company, a combination of threats by Kids Company and political patronage resulted in the genuine concerns of officials being ignore and overruled.
Kids Company did not operate within the same rules as the rest of us. Nor did politicians operate in the same rules in their dealings with Kids Company.
If local councillors behaved in the same way as prime ministers and government ministers, ignoring professional advice and pouring good money after bad, resulting in the loss of millions of public funds, they would be held accountable and, as has happened in the past, surcharged. They would have been made personally liable for these losses.
Yes, there should be greater scrutiny and accountability, not on charities, but on those politicians who were so smitten by the ex-chief executive and gutless in the face of threats from those representing Kids Company.