Kids Company paid the London School of Economics £40,000 to cover the costs of a report that heaped praise on the now defunct children’s charity and Camila Batmanghelidjh, its chief executive.
The study, Kids Company: a diagnosis of the organisation and its interventions, has been cited by Ms Batmanghelidjh as evidence that Kids Company provided good value for money and was well managed.
The report, published in September 2013, and other studies are part of a “collage” of research projects that provided an overview of the charity’s work, Ms Batmanghelidjh told BBC Radio 4’s The Report, broadcast on 6 August.
But several commentators have asked how the LSE and other organisations missed many of the problems highlighted by civil servants concerned about the charity’s use of public funding, which amounts to a reported £37 million over the course of its 19-year existence.
In the first line of the preface to the LSE report, principal investigator Sandra Jovchelovitch, professor of social psychology, describes how, on first meeting Ms Batmanghelidjh in 2007, she was “immediately struck by the beauty and profound truth of her simple message: children recover with unconditional and unrelenting love”.
Ms Batmanghelidjh is also described in the report, by a six-strong team from the department of social psychology, as a “mother figure and role model”, and as an “exceptional” and “emotional, highly-capable” leader with “skills and unique qualities”.
Some media critics have claimed that celebrities, donors and the prime minister were “mesmerised” by the high-profile chief executive.
The report, which bears the logos of both the LSE and Kids Company, does not disclose that the charity provided funding for the report. When contacted by Times Higher Education, the LSE said that Kids Company had paid £39,537 in funding for the report and for a day-long conference.
The LSE team said in their report that they “studied how Kids Company operates and engages clients, statutory services and society”, in particular its use of “psychosocial scaffolding”, therapy and support available to staff, clients and their families alike.
The report repeats Kids Company's claim that “its services reach 36,000 children, young people and their families” – a figure hotly contested during the charity’s demise.
Based solely on interviews with staff and volunteers, the study concludes that Kids Company offers “lessons for policy-makers, the statutory sector and society in general”.
An LSE spokesman said that the report was “not an audit of Kids Company finances or management practices”, but “analysed the model of intervention and care by the charity” with a “particular focus on the psychological impact of Kids Company’s approach”.
Professor Jovchelovitch could not be contacted for comment.
Stephen Briggs, professor of social work at the University of East London, who undertook a study of Kids Company’s management and leadership in 2013, and a £30,000 Department for Education-funded qualitative study of 29 clients, said that his reports did not look at financial management and funding, the main causes of the charity’s demise.
“I was not mesmerised by Camila, but found her to be a very devoted and charismatic person,” said Professor Briggs.
“However, behind that I was focused on a high-quality social care model, which was very robust, innovative and effective [and] that should be produced elsewhere,” he added.