Kids Company: doubts over how many it helped

8 August 2015

"Kids Company's services claimed to reach 36,000 vulnerable and deprived inner-city children and young people in London, Bristol and Liverpool"—The Guardian, 5 August 2015

How many people did Kids Company help? A quick glance at the charity's website shows that the now-defunct charity claimed to reach 36,000 people in London, Bristol and Liverpool.

And if you look at Kids Company's 2011 annual report, you'll find the same claim there, and in the reports for 2012 and 2013. Over the same period the charity claimed that demand for its services was increasing, and accounts show frontline expenditure was rising.

So either the 36,000 figure for earlier years was too high, the 36,000 figure for later years was too low, or there was a dramatic rise in the cost of helping the charity's clients.

It's also not clear who was being helped. While the charity's annual reports say the 36,000 were "children, young people and vulnerable adults", it's been reported that the number may also include school staff.

More money, more demand, and no more people helped?

The charity's own annual reports for 2011, 2012 and 2013 each said that demand for services was rising.

In each year, they show Kids Company hiring more staff and spending more on frontline services.

And in each year the number of people helped is listed as 36,000.

From 2011 to 2013, the wage bill at Kids Company rose from a bit over £7 million to almost £12 million. The average number of employees rose by 166 people (full-time equivalent).

It seems unlikely that there'd be no increase in the number of clients served at the same time as rising demand, a £7.4 million increase in spending on charitable activities, and 166 more workers.

The charity was still using the 36,000 figure in the days before its demise. The 2013 report was the last published.

It's not clear who was receiving the help

Even assuming that the 36,000 figure is accurate, it's not immediately clear who the 36,000 people helped were and where they might be found.

The 2013 annual report said that "Kids Company currently supports some 36,000 children, young people and vulnerable adults".

However, the Spectator reports that this might not quite be a full accounting. It quotes an email sent to Miles Goslett which said that:

'When we refer to clients they include children, young people, young adults with special needs, carers, i.e. foster parents or parents who predominantly have mental health difficulties, and school staff.'

In addition to this, Kids Company itself was not consistent in how it described the figure, sometimes saying the 36,000 were "vulnerable children across London", and sometimes saying they were children, young people and families spread across London, Bristol and Liverpool.

We've asked Kids Company for clarification, but understandably their remaining press team is somewhat busy.

Update 8 August 2015

Kids Company policy was "not to turn away any child in need".

In the context of a paragraph outlining how a combination of cuts to government services and lower incomes had pushed children and young people towards poverty, it is hard to square this with no increase in total users.

The section of their 2013 Summary Information Return in full:

"In 2013, the continued effect of the recession and local authorities' pursuit to comply with the government public spending cuts have led to significant cuts in their provision of frontline youth and children's services. These frontline services are essential for most children and young people, particularly the vulnerable, to survive and become resilient. The cumulative impact of the rise in cost of living, cuts to services and reduction in household income have continued to push children and young people towards poverty.

Total income raised in the year was £23.1million, representing growth of 14% compared to the previous 12 months. Service provision has grown in line with demand for services, as Kids Company policy is not to turn away any child in need. 2013 saw continued increase in demand for Kids Company services, leading to a 23% increase in expenditure on frontline service delivery. Although the charity has grown rapidly it has kept overhead costs to a minimum."

Update 24 August 2015

The BBC has cast further doubt on this figure, saying that Kids Company has handed over records for 1,692 clients in London and 175 in Bristol.

While it quotes former staff arguing that the actual number of users was larger, the BBC reports that government officials believe that the lower number handed over "broadly reflects the true size of the charity's client base—with one exception": the charity may not have handed over details on clients who might be at risk of deportation.

Update 1 February 2016

In a report into the collapse of Kids Company published today, MPs have said "It has proved impossible to reconcile Kids Company's claims about its caseload with evidence from other sources. The evidence is that the figures were significantly over-inflated."

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