Less than a year ago, Kids Company was brought to my attention. Someone I knew wanted to know if some of the things she saw going on there were ‘normal’ and safe. She was worried. I hadn’t paid much attention to the flamboyant ‘leader’, Camilla Batmanghelidjh, but it took a matter of minutes to realise this was worrying.
Camilla, on the advisory board of think tank the Centre for Social Justice was doing several things. She provided ‘evidence’ for government initiatives designed to deliberately create maternal poverty, and remove options for mothers who need to leave abusive relationships under the banner of ‘family breakdown’ being the cause of society’s ills. Abusive family environments creating intergenerational patterns of abuse. Her racist rhetoric about black single mothers and their cruel rejection of men being transferred to their children, was accepted publicly and a figleaf for some of the most toxic social policy in decades.
The rhetoric claiming South London was akin to a war zone, and the psychobabble nonsense of brains being smaller in her client group(dangerously close to eugenicist doctrines which claimed the brains of ethnic minorities were smaller’), the fanciful depictions of poverty and inequality, and dangerously misleading descriptions of the abuse represented in her client group, all clearly nonsense.
I spent some time looking at the model they used. They sought to create an attachment so strong that in practice it would undermine existing attachments, and destabilise children who were vulnerable and undermine the things they needed. Their family relationships. Noone who has worked with vulnerable people is in any doubt of the danger of this approach, creating dependence which undermines the attachments that are any childs best hope of stability. When you are a professional?
There were descriptions on the website of encouraging children to disclose abuse in therapy sessions, and all their rhetoric was about undermining families and enveloping the child at the centre of it with a love ‘bond’ that was deeply concerning. Not for kids with severe attachment difficulties, where assessment has been done and there was a need, and where work was properly supervised. For kids who were self referring and being bribed to do so.
I heard stories of professional work with families being undermined, cash being doled out, and an aggressive and violent environment in which girls were unsafeand sexually predatory young men were coddled and told they were not responsible for their behaviour. Girls disbelieved if they alleged harm. Giving young people the type of money that removed them from the control their parents were legally obliged to exercise and which being gatekeepers to money facilitates. You dont give a kid whose mum is on 146 a week, 200 quid for trainers or a 400quid coat. It destabilises families. As does giving kids money to spend on drugs etc.
Of course kids self referred.
The organisation put the blame for families where domestic abuse had been a feature on the mother, the victim of the abuse. Yesterday Camila claimed to have worked for Women’s Aid, which shocked me.
The key problem here was not financial mismanagement but an organisation exploiting deliberately created poverty to destabilise families, create dependence and then using the problems that result to decorate philanthropic identities. This was a charity who viewed ‘the poor’, and overwhelmingly people whose poverty was inextricably linked with race and motherhood, as a sub species. To be ministered to in such a way that all involved felt good. Regardless of the consequences. THis was an abusive enviroment where this bond could be withdrawn at a moments notice on the whim of Camila. A woman who commanded her many assistants with a noise similar to that of a dolphin.
Jay Rayners descriptoin of poverty when he visited was fanciful. Completely pulled out of the air and bearing no relation to the very distinct environemnt poverty actually creates. All descriptions of structural inequality laid as parental failure, at the door of the mothers the charity exploited for their own gain. The same mothers the think tank Camila sat on the board of, wished to create poverty for.
As stories started to emerge of financial mismanagement, from Alan White at Buzzfeed, Chris Cook at Newsight and the Spectator, as well as ex employees, it became apparent why this charity was above scrutiny.
Bought ‘research’ and high profile media luvvy names sufficient protection that no matter how much harm this charity did, they were above question.
As August’s events snowballed, it emerged that not only did this charity seek to create dangerous and overwhelming(cult like) attachments so young people would be dependent on them, but that the self referring and encouragement to disclose abuse came alongside massive bribes. Generous and astonishing bribes to kids from families often headed by the women Camila had used dangerous racist rhetoric to justify poverty creation for. The charity had no reserves with which to keep this work going and would frequently use the depedence they created to hold government to ransom. Going direct to Ministers. Using the chronic defunding of real child protection services and child and adolescent mental health services, as the reason they needed to maintain an exploitative and dangerous slush fund.
The Guardian continued with their uncritical coverage, as events unfolded. This charity was being targetted, shouting about the mean old Tories and crying that we must ‘think of the children’. Of course thinking of the children did not extend to protecting them from exploitative and dangerous work, they and their families a sub species, in an area which would descend into savagery without Guardian sponsored saviours.
The reason Patrick Butler continued with his uncritical coverage of Kids Company stems from the culture he exemplifies. Fundamentally ignorant about the vast knowledge accrued in social policy delivery over the past century, this the return of the liberal class. This is a class of people who cannot recognise dangerous racist and misogynst work, cannot recognise when dangerous work is being done with vulnerable kids, because to this class of people, those children are a sub class. A different species.
It is important to see the Guardian in context. This is a political newspaper with a culture hostile to criticism, with no accountability who have happily kept social policy reporting in a silo where it doesnt contexualise political narratives. Where complex accountable social policy is not needed, because all that matters is the culture within the Guardian and their concern for ‘the poor’. We evolved as a society past this a long time ago, and in their role shaping parameters of debate for the Labour Party, the Guardian have assisted ably in pulling us back to a pre-welfare state mentality. Where ‘the poor’ can audition for democratic representation by writing on Cif, and where they should be grateful for abusive work which makes Guardianistas feel good.
Stories were spiked about Kids Company and whenever it was needed Patrick Butler rolled out the Guardian as free PR.
You have to place Patrick Butlers ignorance in context. The Guardian are inextricably linked to a culture of policy making, think tanks, and charities, who are benefitting from us reverting to a pre-welfare state society and charities like Kids Company are the result. Patricks recent response to cries from adoption agencies that the baby supply was interrupted after a 26% rise in adoptions was stemmed by intervention from Sir James Mumby, another example of his dangerous levels of ignorance. Social policy is power and power over millions of people with huge consequences.
We need proper analysis of the relationship between social policy, inequality, financial instability and that analysis needs to be grounded in a thorough understanding of the need for accountability and understanding of the complexity of the society that we have. Patrick Butler and the staff at the Guardian want the ego boost of a faceless savage ‘poor’ auditioning to them for attention. The Guardian are happy to attempt to drag us into the 19th century by the power of newspaper and scandals like that at Kids Company demonstrate what that looks like and how far they are from entering the 21st. A boy was apparently murdered, because without the streem of income Kids Company provided he ‘couldn’t pay his dealers.’ Yentob and Camila apparently believe this boys life is vindication of what they did. That is the only value it has.
Until the silo of Society Guardian is addressed and the Guardian ups it’s game we will continue to be dragged back in time to a very dark age many of us truly understand. Unless Kath Viner does something about the structure of her newspaper, the silo of the Society section, and the standard of social policy reporting(or dossing on twitter as I prefer to call it) she will find people dont look to her paper at all.
You cannot drag a 21st century society back to the 19th century by the power of newspaper comment alone, and the attempt is making the Guardian look dangerous. There are plenty of people out there capable of coherent and rational social policy analysis, people who understand the issues at stake. Patrick Butler is clearly not one, and his enjoyment of the company of the charities and reliance on twitter has real consequences for the very real people disenfranchised by the debate the Guardian sells.