Comment: This BBC Kids Company documentary is fascinating, even though the story is familiar

The sector will be relieved that the now defunct charity is not portrayed as typical, writes Andy Ricketts

The fly-on-the-wall documentary on the last days of Kids Company on BBC1 tonight makes for fascinating viewing, even though the tale of Camila Batmanghelidjh’s ultimately doomed charity is very familiar to those who have taken more than a passing interest over the past few months.

I’ve had a preview of the show, and there are some excellent moments, such as when the charity’s former director of communications takes a call informing him that now Kids Company has closed the government wants £2.3m in grant funding back. But there's not a great deal of new information, mainly because the charity’s fall became one of the biggest stories of last year.

The filmmaker Lynn Alleway was offered unique access to Camila’s inner circle during the charity’s collapse and there’s no doubting the interest in the footage she has captured.

The documentary starts as Camila has been asked to stand down as chief executive and the charity has been told to restructure as a condition of receiving a £3m grant from the Cabinet Office.

She appears to relish the opportunity of a fight and is determined that she will not be ousted, even after Kids Company’s trustees go over her head to appoint a chief operating officer to oversee a restructure.

The programme also focuses on some of the individual clients that received high levels of support from the charity, and takes a look at the thousands of pounds of cash payments that Kids Company made to people who, according to programme makers, didn’t really use the charity’s other services.

Camila’s passion for the children the charity supported is undeniable, and the esteem she is held in by the charity’s staff and beneficiaries is obvious – she receives a standing ovation when she goes to address staff at Kids Company’s day centre in south London in the weeks before it closed.

It’s interesting seeing Camila talking about her "list of people to beg", and discussing major donations from the likes of the comedian Michael McIntyre and the band Coldplay, as well as discussing with her director of communications how to handle certain interviews.

But despite obvious errors of judgement – for example the charity was criticised after it emerged that it was paying £5,000 a month for a five-bedroom mansion with a swimming pool for a safe house for young people – Camila is her usual defiant self.

Asked by Alleway who is to blame for the closure of Kids Company, Camila says it is the media and politicians.

"What would you like me to say?" she says. "I am so sorry? But what am I sorry for? I’m not sorry I gave the kids money, I’m not sorry I bought the kids nice things, I’m not sorry I fought for them, I’m not sorry. The only thing I’m sorry about is that I didn’t raise enough money."

The good news for the rest of the sector is that there’s no attempt by the programme makers to portray this as typical behaviour for charities – quite the reverse, in fact – so the damage for other charities is limited.

You’ll make up your own minds, but I don’t think most of the voluntary sector will be watching from behind the sofa. 

Camila's Kids Company: The Inside Story, is on BBC1 at 9pm this evening


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