Camila Batmanghelidjh

Camila Batmanghelidjh, CBE (/kəˈmɪlə bætmænˈɡɛlɪ/; Persian: کامیلا باتمانقلیچKamylā Batmanghelych; born 1963) is an Iranian-born author and former charity executive in the United Kingdom.[1][2][3] She is best known as the founder of Kids Company, a charity which worked with marginalised children and young people in the UK.[4][5]

Camila Batmanghelidjh

Camila Batmanghelidjh plenary.jpg
Camila Batmanghelidjh at the NHS Confederation annual conference, July 2011
EducationBA, Theatre Studies and Dramatic Arts
MA, Philosophy of Counselling and Psychotherapy
Alma materUniversity of Warwick
Antioch University
Parent(s)Fereydoon Batmanghelidj (father)

Between 1996 and 2015, Batmanghelidjh became a high-profile "media darling", fêted by celebrities and politicians for her work with Kids Company.[6] In 2007, The Guardian described her as "one of the most powerful advocates for vulnerable children in the country".[7] She was dubbed the "Angel of Peckham".[8]

In 2015, amid allegations of mismanagement and the squandering of funds, Batmanghelidjh was forced to step down as the charity's chief executive, and Kids Company was closed, by then insolvent, despite receiving millions of pounds in government funding.[9][10]

Early lifeEdit

Batmanghelidjh was born in 1963 in Tehran, Iran, the third of four children, to Fereydoon Batmanghelidj (c. 1931–2004), a doctor, and his wife Lucile, a Belgian national.[8][11] Her parents met and married in London, where her father was studying at St Mary's Hospital, before returning to Tehran.[12] Batmanghelidjh was born two-and-a-half months premature and was not expected to survive.[13] Her birth was not registered and the date was not noted.[14] The preterm birth resulted in Batmanghelidjh developing learning disabilities (including dyslexia) and an endocrine disorder affecting her weight.[15][16][17][18]


She attended Sherborne School for Girls, an independent school in Dorset.[19] She attended the University of Warwick where she received a first class degree in Theatre and the Dramatic Arts.[20] She trained as a psychotherapist at the London campus of Antioch University and the Tavistock Clinic.[21] At the age of 25 she was employed as a part-time psychotherapist in a project in Camberwell, south London, funded by Children in Need.[20]

Charity workEdit

The Place To BeEdit

In 1991, Batmanghelidjh was involved in the formation of The Place to Be, a Family Service Unit project working with troubled children in primary schools.[22][23] Batmanghelidjh resigned from the project in 1995.[23]

Southwark's Urban AcademyEdit

The Urban Academy was a post-16 educational and life skills academy in Southwark, south London. It was founded by Batmanghelidjh and was run by her Kids Company organisation.[24][25][26]

Kids CompanyEdit

In 1996, after leaving The Place To Be, Batmanghelidjh founded Kids Company, a charity that provided care to children whose lives had been disrupted by poverty, abuse and trauma. Originally a single drop-in centre in Camberwell, Kids Company claimed that it helped some 36,000 children, young people and families, although this figure is disputed.[27] The charity operated through a network of street level centres, alternative education centres, therapy houses and with over 40 schools in London and Bristol as well as a performing arts programme in Liverpool.[28]

Deborah Orr, in an interview with Batmanghelidgh, reported in 2012 that fifteen independent evaluations of Kids Company had found that 96 per cent of children assisted return to education and employment and an "impact on crime reduction" of 88 per cent.[20]

In 2015, it was first reported that Kids Company was in significant financial difficulty. In July 2015 a report by Newsnight and BuzzFeed revealed that public funding for Kids Company was to be withheld unless Batmanghelidjh was replaced.[29] On 3 July it was reported that Batmanghelidjh would step down as chief executive in the next few months and continue in a "presidential" role.[30][31]

On 5 August 2015, Kids Company closed its operations[32] less than a week after receiving a government grant of £3,000,000. The charity was given the money against the advice of officials, who had raised concerns about value for money and how it would be spent.[33] The charity had announced that it was closing down because "it is unable to pay its debts as they fall due”.[34]

Speaking to The Daily Telegraph in August 2015, Batmanghelidjh said she hoped Kids Company could make a comeback after some restructuring and once the media storm had died down.[35]

In mid-August 2015, Batmanghelidjh announced that she would be opening a food bank in Lambeth, south London. She said fifty former staff had volunteered to help run the pop-up Kids Dining Room in Loughborough Junction to provide food for up to 3,000 children and young people. Approximately 200 people used the service in August 2015.[36]

Awards and honoursEdit

Batmanghelidjh receiving an honorary degree from the Open University in 2008

In 2009 Batmanghelidjh was named Businesswoman of the Year in the Dods and Scottish Widows Women in Public Life Awards.[37] A New Statesman readers' poll awarded her the title Person of the Year in 2006.[38] She has also received Ernst and Young's Social Entrepreneur of the Year award (2005),[39] Third Sector magazine's Most Admired Chief Executive (2007)[40] and the Centre for Social Justice's lifetime achievement award in 2009.[40] Batmanghelidjh has been awarded honorary degrees and doctorates by several universities including York St John University,[41] the Open University,[42] Brunel University,[2] London South Bank University,[43] University of Warwick[44] and Nottingham Trent University.[45] In September 2006 she was conferred with an Honorary Fellowship of Goldsmiths, University of London.[46]

In February 2013, she was named one of the 100 most powerful women in the United Kingdom by Woman's Hour on BBC Radio 4.[47] She was appointed an honorary Commander of the Order of the British Empire (CBE) for services to children and young people.[48] In September 2014 she became an Honorary Fellow of UCL.[49]


  • Batmanghelidjha, Camila (May 1999). "Whose political correction?: The challenge of therapeutic work with inner-city children experiencing deprivation". Psychodynamic Counselling. 5 (2): 231–244. doi:10.1080/13533339908402537.
  • Batmanghelidjh, Camila (2000). "Betrayal: the politics of child mental health". RSA Journal. 148 (5493): 38–45.
  • Batmanghelidjh, Camila (2006). Shattered Lives: Children Who Live with Courage and Dignity. London: Jessica Kingsley. ISBN 978-1-843-10603-6.
  • Batmanghelidjh, Camila (October 2011). "England riots 2011: Camila Batmanghelidjh takes a look in the mirror". Socialist Lawyer (59): 16–17. doi:10.13169/socialistlawyer.59.0016.
  • Batmanghelidjh, Camila (2013). Mind the Child. London: Penguin Books. ISBN 978-1-846-14655-8.
  • Batmanghelidjh, Camila (2015). "Clinical snobbery—get me out of here! New clinical paradigms for children with complex disturbances". In Warnecke, Tom (ed.). The Psyche in the Modern World. London: Karnac Books. pp. 43–61. ISBN 978-1-782-20046-8.
  • Batmanghelidjh, Camila (2017). Kids: Child Protection in Britain: The Truth. London: Biteback Publishing. ISBN 978-1785901195.

Television, film, and mediaEdit

Batmanghelidjh was the subject of Ruby Wax Gets Streetwise, a documentary film about her charity work with Kids Company, presented by Ruby Wax. Directed by Michael Waldman, the film was broadcast on 15 March 2000 by BBC Two.[50][51]

In 2002, she was interviewed by Fergal Keane for Taking A Stand, a radio documentary exploring her work as an advocate for "society's most anti-social, violent and disruptive children". The 30-minute documentary was first broadcast on 15 January 2002 by BBC Radio 4.[52]

A 2003 Channel Four series, Second Chance, featured Batmanghelidjh's work at Kids Company with children who had been labelled "unteachable".[53][54]

Batmanghelidjh's work with Kids Company was the subject of Tough Kids, Tough Love, a film by Lynn Alleway, first broadcast on 19 October 2005 by BBC Two.[55][56][57] Alleway made a second film, at Batmanghelidjh's invitation, during the summer of 2015, which unwittingly captured the collapse of Kids Company. Sam Wollaston, writing in The Guardian, described it as: "like an invitation, on the evening of 14 April 1912, to the bridge of the Titanic."[58] The film was broadcast as Camila's Kids Company: The Inside Story on 3 February 2016 by BBC One.[59]

Video installation artist Larisa Blazic created a multi screen video installation Angel (of Peckham) which was displayed in Currys Digital shop window in August 2007 and was inspired by her and William Blake's vision of angels in Peckham Rye.[60]


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External linksEdit