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Kent County Council's youth justice service 'must improve' amid gowning violence concerns says councillor


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Kent's youth justice service must improve its care of young children as a councillor calls for a "culture change" amid growing violence concerns.

Kent County Council's (KCC) education committee openly debated an improvement action plan to protect young children during a public meeting in Sessions House, County Hall, Maidstone.

Kent County Council headquarters at County Hall in Maidstone
Kent County Council headquarters at County Hall in Maidstone

It comes just days after reports circulated of more violence at male young offenders institute, Cookham Wood in Rochester, showing assaults increasing by 70% since 2019 at the institution.

Kent Youth Justice service involves the cooperation of the police, courts, tribunals, the voluntary sector and councils, including Kent County Council.

It aims to prevent offending and re-offending by children and young people, such as reducing the use of custody. Offences can include assault, truancy and drugs.

Kent county Cllr Rory Love (Con) said the local authority, and partners, needed to be "more consistent" in the quality of care provided to juveniles.

He said: "It's about changing the culture on the ground, along with the practices and procedures."

Assaults at Cookham Wood Young Offenders Institute, have increased by 70%. Stock picture
Assaults at Cookham Wood Young Offenders Institute, have increased by 70%. Stock picture

KCC's education director, Matt Dunkley, said one-to-one support for youngsters who have offended or at risk of reoffending is provided by KCC's social care team.

County Hall chiefs have outlined a series of improvement actions, including the creation of a more "robust" victim support service, the recruitment of a manager and a sweeping review of the system from top to bottom.

Concerns were raised by other councillors about the rising number of children working with overstretched social workers.

Social workers provide support for children and families, or work with adults with physical disability or mental health related needs.

In Tonbridge and Malling, it was revealed that there has been a 50% recent increase in the number of cases per social worker, rising from 18 cases to 27.

Concerns were raised by other councillors about the rising number of children working with overstretched social workers. Stock picture
Concerns were raised by other councillors about the rising number of children working with overstretched social workers. Stock picture

Malling Central county councillor Trudy Dean (Lib Dem), on the KCC education committee, said: "The caseload for children of social workers is going up.”

Canterbury City North county councillor Alister Brady (Lab) suggested more staff be hired to reduce the "considerable" workload on social workers.

He said: "We have a finite amount of time that an individual can work and it is great that we are increasing knowledge and skills through training.

"But that does not reduce that workload. There is still training and not looking at the casework."

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