In Profile: Camila Batmanghelidjh

By Jess Brown

| 03 July 2015

Amid a storm of controversy, it has been announced that Camila Batmanghelidjh will step down as chief executive of Kids Company. Here, CYP Now examines the charismatic figure's history working with vulnerable children.

Kids Company has announced that Camila Batmanghelidjh will step down as chief executive

Born in Iran, Batmanghelidjh was granted asylum to stay in the UK at the age of nine.

She first started working with vulnerable children and the age of 14 and founded her first organisation, The Place To Be, in her early twenties.

Starting off with a single counsellor in a Southwark primary school, The Place to Be became a recognised charity in 1994 and had expanded to six schools by 1995 when Batmanghelidjh resigned.

Following this, she established Kids Company in 1996 with the aim of advocating for and supporting vulnerable children.

With Batmanghelidjh at the helm, Kids Company overcame early funding troubles – she reportedly remortgaged her home twice to make up for a lack of funding – to become a significant player in the children's sector.

The charity, which was awarded the Liberty and Justice Human Rights Award in 2007, supports thousands of vulnerable inner-city children across London, Bristol and Liverpool.

She has since become a recognisable figure over her career due to regular public and television appearances, and her trademark colourful dress sense.

In recent years, she has been vocal in her criticism of the state's role in protecting and supporting vulnerable children.

In April last year, she warned that official figures on children in need are massively underestimating the numbers at risk of neglect and abuse.

In June 2014, the charity launched its See the Child, Change the System campaign to push for the creation of an alternative model of delivering children’s services that would ensure a wider pool of vulnerable young people get access to support.

Batmanghelidjh said at the time that children’s services departments were failing to provide early support to many at-risk children, only intervening once a situation had reached crisis point.

Writing in CYP Now, she said the child protection system cannot cope with the “real” numbers of vulnerable children in need of help and that social workers are being forced to find ways to limit the demand on services.

She said: “There is an unspoken understanding between central government and local authorities that the real numbers of children who are being harmed should not be captured.

"It would bankrupt councils who would be duty-bound to address their needs.”

Kids Company has said Batmanghelidjh will stay on at the charity in an "advocacy and clinical role" after the appointment of a new chief executive.

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