Kids Company trustees face bans from running UK companies

The ignominious collapse of Kids Company took a further turn on Monday, when it was revealed that former trustees of the charity are facing lengthy bans from running or controlling companies in the UK.

The Insolvency Service will request in a legal action that eight former trustees — including the BBC’s Alan Yentob, Richard Handover, former chief executive of retailer WH Smith, and Vince O’Brien, former chair of the British Venture Capital Association — are disqualified from acting as company directors for between two-and-a-half and six years.

The service will also argue that Camila Batmanghelidjh, the charity’s founder, should be banned from a company directorship. She was not a trustee at the time of Kids Company’s closure in 2015, but the service claims that she “acted as a de facto director”.

Kids Company, which received at least £42m in public funding during its 19-year history, became a lightning rod for concerns about the governance of Britain’s charities.

Its profile was amplified by Ms Batmanghelidjh’s near-celebrity status, and her connections with senior politicians, including David Cameron and George Osborne. A musical based on her appearance before a parliamentary committee is currently running at London’s Donmar Warehouse theatre. 

In 2016, MPs accused Kids Company’s trustees of “a complete lack of experience of youth services” and of ignoring auditors’ “repeated warnings” about the charity’s precarious cash flow. They criticised Ms Batmanghelidjh in particular for agreeing to provide “luxury items”, such as spa breaks, to a small number of children.

At the time, trustees said that Kids Company had been the victim of hostile media coverage, and that it was not credible that “the trustees, auditors, care experts, inspectors, regulators and the government all failed”.

Ms Batmanghelidjh’s own account of the charity’s demise, Kids, is due to be published in August. The book will call for “something like” Kids Company to help vulnerable children. 

Under Ms Batmanghelidjh’s leadership, the charity claimed to help 36,000 children in London, Liverpool and Bristol, against a backdrop of government cuts, although that figure was later questioned. 

The Insolvency Service, which is part of the UK business department, said on Monday: “We can confirm that the Insolvency Service has written to the former directors of Keeping Kids Company informing them that the business secretary intends to bring proceedings to have them disqualified from running or controlling companies for periods of between two-and-a-half and six years.”

Mr Yentob, who chaired Kids Company’s board, stepped down as the BBC’s creative director in December 2015. He continues to present the arts series Imagine, earning between £200,000 and £250,0000 last year.

The eight others facing bans are Mr Handover, Mr O’Brien, Sunetra Atkinson, a former BBC make-up artist, Erica Bolton, an arts consultant, Francesca Robinson, chairman of recruitment company PSD Group, Jane Tyler, a former partner at solicitors firm Macfarlanes, and Andrew Webster, a former HR executive at pharmaceutical company AstraZeneca. With the exception of Mr Webster, they had all been trustees for at least eight years. Mr O’Brien stepped down in March 2015, five months before Kids Company’s closure.

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