Yentob argued the closure of Kids Company had already led to a “worst-case scenario”. He suggested the recent murder of Jerrell Elie (a 17-year-old whom he did not name but stated he had attended crime prevention workshops), alongside various stabbings and suicide attempts were a direct consequence of the charities folding.
Yentob was subsequently challenged on this and his correspondence with the Cabinet Office. In the email he had sent, the BBC executive shared a risk assessment written by Kids Company which described itself as “a functioning space for hope, positivity and genuine care” and spoke of the risk of rioting and modern-day slavery as a possible consequences closing the charity. The controversial assertion that threatened without the positive, civilising influence of Kids Company in their life “these communities will descend into savagery due to sheer desperation for basic needs to be met,” has been seen by many as reflecting a racist attitude towards the people that used the charity’s services.
Toyin Agbetu said “this patronising and frankly racist notion of Kids Company being essential to help save our “savage” communities from rioting and all kinds of mayhem is straight out of the colonial mindset best illustrated by the imperialist ideology of Kipling’s ‘White Mans Burden’. It’s a tragedy that Kid Company’s closure means so many good people have lost their jobs and their clients have become more at risk of destitution. However it is never justified to demonise others for political gain. That’s just as despicable as the government providing inadequate funding for services that protect the vulnerable in order to test out its unnecessary austerity theories.”
Yentob has also been publicly criticised by Amanda Elie, Jerrell’s mother for using her son’s death as a means to get himself “out of hot water”. Jerrell confirmed that Jerrell had attended the Kids Company nearly every day for many years, but revealed after his death she had not had any contact with the BBC executive authorising him to exploit her son’s tragic plight.
She said “Stop acting like you care when you don’t care… Stop using us, the community, as your scapegoat for whatever you conjured up in your offices… We are not the backdrop, so don’t use us as the backdrop. We are human people who need help.”
Yentob responding by stating “I have never intended to cause any distress, and my work with Kids Company has always been about attempting to help those with severe needs. In today's press, I see that the young man’s mother has said that if Kids Company had been there then this tragedy might have been avoided.”
Jerrell passed away from head injuries believed to be caused from being hit by a car. The assault followed a row at a party on Saturday 8 August. Jerrell had just completed his GCSEs.