Local Community Need in Kent and Medway
Kent Community Foundation exists to improve the lives of the people of Kent, particularly the most vulnerable, disadvantaged and isolated. We do this by connecting local people who care with local causes that really matter. Kent is the most wonderful place in which to live and work but it can sometimes seem a county of extremes. We have some of the most affluent areas in the country, but this can hide the very real need right on our own doorstep. Some of the particular challenges facing communities in Kent include:
Tackling deprivation and poverty
Kent and Medway still have some of the poorest and most deprived wards in the South East. Thanet remains in England’s 20% most deprived districts. Across Kent over 50,000 children live in poverty, significantly higher than the average in the rest of the South East, with Swale and Thanet having the highest levels. Sometimes the most deprived wards are close neighbours to the most affluent: East and West Malling for example. It is crucial to break the cycle of deprivation for the present generation of children and young people in Kent and provide support to the most vulnerable families. Research suggests that children from disadvantaged backgrounds are less likely to achieve at school and are more likely to be involved in anti-social behaviour, including drug use and crime. As adults they are more likely to have low earnings and be less likely to work.
Improving employability and skills
Kent lags behind the South East average when it comes to worklessness. The eastern and coastal areas of the county generally have the highest levels, although there are pockets elsewhere, particularly along the northern borders of Dartford and Gravesham. Youth unemployment is particularly worrying with just over 28% of unemployed aged between 18-24 years. We trail behind other South East counties in relation to the level of skills and education. With all the issues associated with unemployment, we see tremendous community benefit in supporting people into employment opportunities, particularly young people and those furthest away from the workforce, such as adults with learning and physical disabilities, ex-offenders, care leavers and the long term unemployed.
Reducing offending and re-offending behaviour
We are all concerned about the cycle of offending and re-offending. In Thanet, for instance, the level of violent crime is 24% above the national average. We need to do more to prevent re-offending which in Kent is persistently higher than predicted. Almost one in ten offenders in Kent and Medway is up before the courts again within three months of release. We need early intervention to identify and engage young people at risk of offending and prevent the slide into crime and anti-social behaviour in the first place. In a typical year, around 4,000 young people are involved in the criminal justice system. While this is less than 3% of all the young people living in Kent, a minority of prolific offenders are responsible for 33% of all youth crime in Kent.
Supporting vulnerable people
The role of any Community Foundation includes helping the most vulnerable in our society, whether they are amongst the sick, people with learning and other disabilities, children at risk or the elderly. Thirty percent of Kent’s population will be over 60 by 2026. Sadly, there has been a history of vulnerable people being ‘placed’ in Kent – looked-after children, adults with learning difficulties and mental health problems, asylum seekers, ex-offenders. For example, Kent has the highest number of looked-after children placed here from other counties, more than double the number of placements in Lancashire, the local authority with the second highest number. Offering compassionate support to the most vulnerable and isolated will always be an important focus of our work as a Community Foundation.
While there are always challenges, there is also brilliant work across the county addressing these needs. KCF works year round with hundreds of local charities, projects and groups who dedicate themselves to improving the lives of the people of Kent and Medway. As always, however, this inspiring work needs funding and support to continue.