A Morning in Mourning – The Premature Death of Kids Company

I woke up this morning to the news that Kids Company, behemoth of the youth sector and the organisation to which I owe my initiation into this shadowy and (once) unfamiliar territory is about to shut its doors imminently. I originally set up this blog as a new Key Worker at KidsCo, eyes open wide with the intensity of the issues, stories and events I was experiencing. Hopeful and enlivened by the incredible people I met and their dedication to those they worked with, my initial intention was to showcase some of these dedicated, zealous mercenaries of youth work for whom I have so much respect. Unfortunately the pressures of the work, emotional energy needed to do it, and my increasing passion for establishing new projects while working there prevented me from making this project happen.

It is with a sad irony that this morning, on hearing that KidsCo is to shut its doors permanently I remembered this long forgotten project. A rollercoaster of emotions soon followed; the rush of the joy, excitement and sense of wonder that I experienced as a key worker with KidsCo, as well as the deep sadness, horror, fear and anxiety that I sometimes shared with my clients. Being hit by such a deluge, I felt this is the appropriate platform to express some of my thoughts on the news, I decided to resuscitate my blog from the grave, even as KidsCo lies on its deathbed.

Immediately I am struck by the thought that we recently bailed out our banks who are deemed “too big to fail”. As I write the chancellor has sold a percentage of our stakes in RBS for a £1,07bn loss, a bank that was bailed out by the taxpayer to the tune of £45bn. If our banks are too big to fail – the argument being that their doing so would create poverty and misery for their users and the rest of society, surely an organisation that successfully services 1000s of this cities poorest, most vulnerable, hurt and forgotten young people and their families should be too? That KidsCo had financial, organisation and administrative difficulties is not in doubt – didn’t RBS (and the others) experience the same? With the amount of government money that has already gone into supporting KidsCo – the argument being they are providing essential services which should be provided by the state anyway – perhaps there is an argument for the government to step in and ensure the people served by the organisation are not the ones who are made to suffer further for some faulty managerial practices and a state system which has repeatedly failed to meet their (admittedly complex and extremely difficult) needs.

The real tragedy here is the loss of the organisational memory which KidsCo developed. Many of the people it served have been passed from one organisation to another, one specialist service to another, one benefit agency to another and one statutory agent to another, particularly as the welfare state is stripped to its bare bones and services are increasingly specialised or the thresholds set to access support are ramped higher and higher. The beauty of KidsCo was that it invested in relationships with people who often only have the experience of passing (or being excreted) through bureaucratic structures, endlessly being asked to repeat their often horrifying stories ad infinitum in order to access (or more often be denied) the scant support that they need and which is fast disappearing. The colleagues I worked with took painstaking efforts, often over many months and sometimes years to develop trusting and caring relationships with the bruised, sceptical and guarded people on whose behalf they advocated for fiercely in all aspects of their lives, be it housing, accessing therapeutic support, benefits, rebuilding inter-familial relationships or handling relationships with authority figures such as police, teachers and social workers – a delicate and difficult balancing act, frequently being put in situations which even the most temperate of us would find frustrating to the extreme.

I am left wondering what will become of the thousands of clients who put their faith in us, who (with much convincing) invested the little reserves they had left of trust and hope in our ability to help them, to promise them something more, a way out, a way forward. We tried to convince them that there were people in this world who care about them. By allowing KidsCo to fail the government has shown its true colours to all those who feel forgotten, left out and let down by this society. They will have little reason left to abide by its rules, to trust its authority figures or to put their faith in its justice. For those with little left to lose, nothing left to hope for, and an abundance of anger to vent, the streets will provide plenty of opportunity to seek revenge on a society that has closed its eyes and turned its face from their suffering.

Have no doubt, the timing of this catastrophe is not a random event. The death of KidsCo and fall from grace of one of the fiercest and most vociferous advocates for the rights of young people coincides too neatly with the first majority conservative budget in 19 years. This government has thrown young people to the wolves and sacrificed them on the altar of austerity & fiscal discipline. Denied the rise in minimum wage so touted as a progressive conservative move, their right to housing, essential for escaping the deprivations of their home life or the violence and negative networks that young people are vulnerable to in their adolescence removed. These are but a few of the effects which will make our young people increasingly desperate in the years ahead. Combined with the move to change how we measure child poverty, this represents a sinister attempt to render invisible a problem that many would simply prefer to pretend does not exist. Measurement is the cornerstone of social action and accountability in today’s world of ‘scientific public policy’, and ironically one of the criticisms that has been levelled at KidsCo is how it measures its outcomes – this rings hollow coming from a government which is about to all but stop measuring the problem in the first place.

I will leave it there for now, but there are many more facets to this story, to KidsCo and to the debates about how we work with and engage such issues. Essentially KidsCo was far from perfect, yet undoubtedly created a space and a model that both challenged and filled the (increasing) gap left by overstretched statutory agencies ill equipped to deal with the complex problems faced by KidsCo’s many clients. I dread to think what will fill the chasm left in its wake.

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~ by @LeoASchwartz on August 5, 2015.

6 Responses to “A Morning in Mourning – The Premature Death of Kids Company”

  1. Reblogged this on Mariam Saidan.

  2. Hello – I thought this was such an interesting blogpost. Mikaela Parrack suggested I read this. I was wondering if I could speak to you at some point today for the BBC Radio 4 PM programme?

    Thanks,

    John

  3. Genuine tragedy

  4. Reblogged this on babyhood and commented:
    I am devastated. I will look up my interview with Camila and publish as she is totally devoted to these vulnerable children, and I am so sad for them and for our society. We will all suffer because of this. Every one of us has a responsibility to look after the innocent children. It is immoral to allow Kids Company to close, especially as we bailed out RSBC for so much more. I feel sick. will this lead to riots?

  5. Leo, I have only just found this. You have hit the nail on the head. SO SO spot on. Thank you xxxx

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