The chair of Kids Company signed an email to the government warning of a "high risk of arson attacks on government buildings" if the charity were to close, BuzzFeed News and BBC Newsnight have learned.
The message was contained in documents sent to the Cabinet Office on 2 June by the charity's chair, Alan Yentob. They also warned that the "communities" the charity served could "descend into savagery".
Two civil servants have described the memo, sent in an email that was signed by Yentob – who is also the BBC's creative director – as "absurd", "hysterical", and "extraordinary". Yentob declined to comment on the document to BuzzFeed News and BBC Newsnight.
The documents were the initial arguments in a Kids Company proposal for a controversial £3 million grant that was supposed to be used to restructure the charity into a smaller "child wellbeing hub".
The Cabinet Office has acknowledged that it received the documents, but said the memo was not responsible for the eventual decision to give the charity the funds – a course of action, as BuzzFeed News and BBC Newsnight revealed, that was made by ministers against the advice of the department's most senior civil servant.
As BuzzFeed News and BBC Newsnight also revealed, the ministers' decision only prolonged the charity's existence for five more working days, and may now cost the government £1.2 million. Some of the money was being spent on overdue staff salaries, though the Cabinet Office says it was supposed to be used for restructuring.
The memo said:
We have created a structure which acts as a substitute parent and extended family. The endings of these relationships will be therefore potentially equivalent to death of the primary care giver i.e. a mother, a father and/or the whole extended family within a biological familial structure.
The impact of such termination will be devastating for each child in their own way. In our scenario these children will have no emergency aid agency or rescue team set up for them to acknowledge the turmoil closure will bring for them.
The document then listed a series of "risks posed to the public" that would result from the trauma described above: a "high risk" of looting, rioting, and arson attacks on government buildings, along with increases in knife and gun crime, neglect, starvation, and modern-day slavery.
The memo said: "We are ... concerned that these children and families will be left without services in situations of sexual, psychological or emotional abuse, neglect and malnutrition and facing homelessness and further destitution."
It went on to argue that the charity's cause for concern was "not hypothetical, but based on a deep understanding of the socio-psychological background that these children operate within". It said there weren't enough "voluntary agencies equipped or staffed to deal with the challenging behaviour that our client group possesses".
"Without a functioning space for hope, positivity and genuine care, these communities will descend into savagery due to sheer desperation for basic needs to be met," the memo added.
Sources have told BBC Newsnight and BuzzFeed News that the now-closed charity has handed over the details of only 1,692 London clients – adults and children – to the authorities, with 331 designated as high risk. This figure was at odds with the number previously cited by the charity's CEO, Camila Batmanghelidjh, of 15,933. Batmanghelidjh told the Sunday Times that she kept back some records of clients who are at risk of deportation.
Today's Daily Mail reported that the cross-party public administration and constitutional affairs committee will announce an investigation into the charity as soon as parliament resumes next month, and that Yentob and Cabinet Office minister Oliver Letwin will both be interviewed. The National Audit Office is also expected to scrutinise ministers' decisions.
The Charity Commission is currently investigating Kids Company's management and governance, while a Metropolitan police complex case team from the force's sexual offences, exploitation, and child abuse command is also investigating the charity.
A spokesperson for Alan Yentob said:
It’s widely acknowledged that Kids Company has done vital work with vulnerable children and young adults. The document you refer to was an appendix written by the Safeguarding Team, who set out all the potential risks to be taken into account in the event of closure.
Despite the support of local authorities, many of those who received support and refuge from Kids Company remain at risk. The welfare and safety of both the young people and the communities in which they live continues to be of great concern.
Alan White is a news editor for BuzzFeed News and is based in London.
Contact Alan White at email@example.com.
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