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Children’s charities threatened by recent closures

The recent closures of two high profile children’s charities pose a threat to the sector, a chief executive has claimed.

The British Association of Adoption and Fostering (BAAF) closed earlier this month, followed shortly afterwards by the high profile inner city-focused organisation Kids Company.

Andy Elvin is chief executive of the Adolescent and Children’s Trust (TACT), a voluntary organisation providing fostering and adoption services. The abrupt closure of the two charities meant local authorities and service commissioners would now be reluctant to sign contracts with similar organisations, he claimed.

Mr Elvin told Children & Young People Now:

“Headlines like this make public authorities nervous about doing business with you. It is not a good thing because commissioners start to wonder whether the charity is going to be solvent.”

“Continuity of service” was vital, he said, and the sector could not afford doubts about this.

“From a children’s charity point of view, we want the world to know that we are not all like that, and there’s no issue with the stability or solvency of many of us.”

He called on the Charity Commission to fully investigate the circumstances behind the two closures. This would, he said, help TACT and other children’s charities better address the issues raised.

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  1. Paul Twyman says:

    Mr Elvin is quite right to draw attention to the risk of a falling away in the use of charities by public sector organisations and to the need for a Charity Commission inquiry – or, I would suggest, a Parliamentary inquiry. Any such inquiry could usefully go beyond the cases of the BAAF and Kids Company and look at other failures.
    One of the underlying issues is the failure of civil servants and ministers to monitor effectively the work of their contractors. That seems to be the case with the two charities mentioned but another example is the College for Social Work. It was clear to outsiders like me that there was something wrong. On top of that one found that dealing with them was like marching through treacle and they simply “did not get it” when asked questions about their business plans and so on. If I could spot these flaws, why not the funders?

    I strongly suspect that one reason is that many civil servants have lost the capacity to monitor contracts in an effective way, simply relying on devising boxes which the charities have to tick and relying on performance indicators used in a rather mindless way, without keeping in touch with what is going on by talking to staff and – just as important, if not more so, the ultimate clients. Without wanting to sound like a miserable old Victor Meldrew character, as a retired Under Secretary I cannot help harking back to the old days when we used to have a concept of “sponsorship” of sectors. We used to keep in close touch with firms and charities and other organisations even when we did not have a contractual relationship. We knew – or at least some of us knew – what as going on in the real world as distinct from the corridors of Sanctuary Buildings or Richmond House. Just by talking to people one can spot signs of problems which can then be raised more formally. But box ticking and mechanistic bean counting takes up too much time and hard pressed officials do not have time to do what would be second nature in any successful business.

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