By Alice Bacon & Mark Greaves
Amidst controversy at Kids Company, our concern is that insufficient attention is being given to the way in which children and young people will be impacted if the charity is moved to completely close its doors tonight.
In the short term, it is those children who should be put at the heart of the decision making, not dealt with as an afterthought.
Boris Johnson’s comments today about the need for them to be thrown a mere “safety net” and for other organisations to “try and move in and do what [they] can to provide some help” reveal just how little is in place right this moment to support them in the immediate future.
Local Authorities and other hard-working organisations will of course do what they can to pick up the slack, but they simply do not have the resources or structure in place to fill the void that will be left by Kids Company, which had over 600 paid staff and some 8000 volunteers.
Even more significantly, they do not have the same relationships with young people in place which have been nurtured and developed over a lengthy period.
The summer months are a time of huge change for many children and young people helped by Kids Company; the school year is over and they must prepare for new schools, apprenticeships or post-18 work in September. When they most need a stable influence at an incredibly complex and challenging time of their life, a crucial part of the support network on which they rely upon looks like it will be taken away overnight.
We fear the impact of the closure could mean even more children face school exclusion in September.
The statistics clearly illustrate that a disproportionate percentage of those excluded are from the most disadvantaged members of society. Worrying figures released by the Department for Education on 30 July 2015 revealed that children claiming free school meals are four times more likely to be excluded than the school population as a whole. Many of these suffer from mental health problems and intellectual/learning disabilities (indeed students with Special Education Needs account for 70% of all permanent exclusions, despite making up only 20 per cent of the school population).
The work that Kids Company does is a vital part of the multi-disciplinary, holistic approach that seeks to intervene early and and consistently to help children and young people, many of whom are in vulnerable situations.
Thus, even if the financial support for Kids Company is ultimately withdrawn by the Government, it seems irresponsible to allow it to close before a proper plan is in place about what happens next, both for the long and short term.
We feel strongly that the emphasis should be on ensuring that there is a smooth transition of support. The ultimate aim must be to minimize the disruption and range of consequences that this sad closure will have.