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MENTAL HEALTH: More youth services are needed for people hit by pandemic

Friday 8th October 2021

MORE youth services are needed in Kent to cope with a growing mental health crisis among young people caused by the pandemic, says a councillor, writes Ciaran Duggan.
Kent County Council’s (KCC) Labour group has called for an increase in the number of children centres based in the area’s 12 districts, excluding Medway.
It comes amid a long-term review on whether youth services are meeting the needs of young people in the county, launched by Kent County Council (KCC), particularly around emotional, health and economic support.
Cllr Kelly Grehan (Lab), who is KCC’s shadow cabinet member for adult social care, said: “We have a mental health crisis among young people. It is a big social problem.”
A children’s centre is a place or group of places where parents with children can access early support services.
Each centre offers different services for families, including childcare, baby clinics, antenatal classes, breastfeeding support and help for disabled children.
There are 75 children’s centres run by KCC, including Dartford, Gravesend, Maidstone, Sevenoaks, Sittingbourne, Tonbridge and Tunbridge Wells.
This represents a drop of 22% in the county from 2013, when there were  97 children’s centres.
A total of 46 are now open, amid Covid, with a phased reopening of the remainder planned throughout this autumn and winter.
Cllr Grehan added: “I hope we recognise we need more youth services in some way.”
In a report published online by KCC’s education department last week, more than £1million has been allocated to sustain two children’s centres over the next 12 months.
If no action is taken, two sites would be under threat of closing, including Millmead in Thanet and Seashells in Swale.
The KCC report says: “The Covid-19 outbreak has highlighted and created both economic and health consequences, the full implications of which are still far from known.
“Any gap in provision will only act to further exacerbate this for our most vulnerable service users.”
A final decision will be made by KCC’s cabinet member for integrated children’s services, Cllr Sue Chandler (Con), after October 22.