My striptease wasn't required - fortunately

I would have taken my clothes off in parliament to get funding for Kids Company. Luckily, I didn't h

Have you ever felt so much gratitude that you wanted to explode? That's what I felt like when the government announced a grant of more than £12m over three years for Kids Company, the charity I founded in 1996. We provide therapeutic and practical support to lone children in the UK. These young people often have carers, but as a result of their own difficulties, the carers are unable to parent them. Sustainable funding will transform our capacity, but we still need to raise approximately £4m for the care we deliver to 11,500 inner-city children. I'm concerned that we won't be able to raise the money because those who have supported us will assume we won't need their help any more. Please don't think that!

I actually didn't know we had received the grant until people started calling me to say how pleased they were. Someone who'd seen the story in the Guardian called to congratulate us, and I said, "What for?" I couldn't believe it when they told me. Then a friend called me and said, "Lovely picture." I had no idea what he was talking about until he said, "Don't you realise you're on the front page of the Evening Standard?"

By the time we got hold of the staff some of them had already seen the papers, but we managed to get the government press release too and sent them that. They were over the moon. I have had congratulations from bus drivers and people in the street - one woman nearly ran me over on Kensington High Street, whizzing up in her motorised wheelchair to tell me how pleased she was for us. But the most moving reaction was from the kids. They had been so scared that we were not going to be around.

I still had to deal with one attempted suicide that day. I'd been at the offices of the Daily Telegraph to collect a cheque - its readers had donated almost £170,000. You can imagine how wonderful that felt. But I had to go straight from the Telegraph to deal with the child in casualty. This is my life: from the dramatic to the drastic.

So it was 11pm before I reached home, shattered and too emotional to celebrate. It wasn't until then that I was able to sit down, stare through my beautiful stained-glass windows, and think, "This has happened." It would have been lovely to take the day off to celebrate but the reality is, doing this job is relentless.

Thank you, civil servants

I couldn't help but run through all the people I wanted to thank from the bottom of my heart. If Gordon Brown had been in the room I'd have hugged him. Then there were the trustees, the charitable trusts, the media and the business people who have helped us all these years, not to mention the many kind individuals. I even wanted to thank the civil servants who saw through the challenges of this application process. It generated two fat books and some 600 hours of work for us.

The commitment of the 3,000 volunteers and 305 members of staff has been breathtaking. On one occasion, we faced eviction because the council said the black boys hanging around outside the office risked bringing down the value of the private apartments opposite. No building to move into, we were left with no grants to pay the staff. Given redundancy notices, the team refused to leave.

At times it's been nothing short of hell. In moments of craziness, children have come at us with hammers, kitchen knives, fire extinguishers. We have been shot at by complete strangers, and I have been sent death threats by parents and drug dealers whose abuse of children had been exposed. But then again, I've watched some amazing children grow up.

Our challenge is enormous: 84 per cent of young people arriving at our centres are homeless, and 83 per cent have suffered sustained trauma. But our services have helped 87 per cent of them back into education and employment. And with replenished resources, we can bring about improved care.

As I think back over the past 11 and a half years, I am deeply moved and full of hope. And on top of that, there is the sense of relief on behalf of the ministers who have given us this grant. I had planned a striptease in parliament in protest if we didn't receive funding. Luckily, everyone has been spared the sight of my fat knees.

Donations to Kids Company can be made at

This article first appeared in the 17 March 2008 issue of the New Statesman, Iraq: the war that changed us

Photo: Getty Images
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No, Matt Hancock: under-25s are just as entitled to a payrise as the rest of us

At 25, parts of my body were more productive than the whole of Matt Hancock, says Jess Phillips.

I had never heard of Matt Hancock before today, which may be a sign of how productive he has been. He sprang up in my consciousness when he said this at the Tory party conference, when justifying not giving workers under 25 a payrise:

"Anybody who has employed people knows that younger people, especially in their first jobs, are not as productive, on average. Now there are some who are very productive under the age of 25 but you have to set policy for the average. It was an active choice not to cover the under 25s.”
No it bloody wasn't an active choice based on productivity! Lord knows this Government have failed to remember productivity for the past five years. How convenient to remember it when swindling young people.

Let's pretend for a minute that the Governments living wage is just that. Is Matt Hancock saying  that workers under 25 don't deserve to afford be able to live? By the time I was 25 I had a 3 year old. Did my son and I not deserve to be able to live? Oh and while they are there telling me I'm was an undeserving yoof, Hancock is now calling me useless. I don't know Matt Hancock I won't assume he was a lazy entitled toff, but I will wager at 23 I was as, if not more productive than him. I bet you I could have done his job, but he would have struggled to do mine. Maybe I'm wrong and he would have been a great support worker for refugees and carer for people with Alzheimer's all on three hours sleep a night whilst lactating.

Now, I'm not being fair. Of course he couldn't lactate.

The reason the government did this is nothing to do with productivity levels of young adults. It is because once again their limited life experience means that they think mummy and daddy pay for everything. Look no further than ridiculous student fees, cutting housing benefit for young people and now this "you don't deserve to be able to live" wage.

The hilarious thing will be when some employers completely disprove Hancock’s assertions and rush to employ lazy unproductive under 25s because they have to pay them less.
I won't bore you or Hancock with lists of brilliant examples of productive under 25s. The Twitter hashtag #at25 is full of great examples. The history of sport, science, music, art and computing is awash with inspiring world changing young people.Mr Hancock, here is a lesson I learned from the hundreds of productive young people I meet, be honest and say what you think. Your insulting gaffe is a pathetic spun cover up you arrived at when you were backed in to an impossible unjustifiable position. What you should have said was, "oh the reason we don't want to pay under 25s more is because we don't really care about them and let's be honest they don't really vote. Toodle pip."