Diverting more young people from a life of drugs, exploitation and crime
More young people in Kent are to be diverted away from a life of drugs, exploitation and crime thanks to money from the Police and Crime Commissioner Matthew Scott and the Home Office.
More than £800,000 is being awarded to the St Giles Trust over three years to enable the charity to continue its programme of support for young people. Since 2017 the charity has been working in Kent to help those affected by county lines drug dealing turn their lives around.
For example, the St Giles Trust reached out to help one boy in east Kent who was regularly drug running, often dishevelled and very hungry. Contact has been maintained with him and his family and St Giles Trust report his offending is reducing.
Fewer instances of young people going missing means Kent Police has saved substantial time and resources previously spent having to look for them.
Speaking at his Violence Reduction Challenge summit in Maidstone on February 13, the PCC Mr Scott said:
‘St Giles Trust’s work is vital in helping to make young people safer and prevent reoffending. Last autumn, when funding for the initial pilot project ran out, I stepped in to ensure support could continue until April 2019.’
In total, the PCC is investing £614,000 from his commissioning budget over the next three years. The Home Office is contributing £202,000 in 2019/20 for the project.
‘I am now delighted to say we have reached agreement with the Home Office to ensure extra funding is in place until spring 2022. I am also putting in extra money to fund St Giles Trust delivering educational sessions in Kent schools on issues including county lines, drugs, gangs, child sexual exploitation, and knife crime.’
Mr Scott continued:
Among those attending the PCC’s summit was Minister for Crime, Safeguarding and Vulnerability, Victoria Atkins MP.
‘Kent’s proximity to London presents opportunities for gangs and organised crime groups to cross borders and operate in our county. Where criminals are exploiting vulnerable young people, Kent Police is working with other forces to bring the ringleaders to justice. The St Giles Trust offer vulnerable young people - who can be victims as well as offenders - a way to turn their lives around.’
The decision to fund the project has been welcomed by Dover and Deal MP Charlie Elphicke, who said:
'County lines gangs are targeting vulnerable young people across the country and exploiting them for financial gain. As a government we are determined to safeguard those most at risk and end these appalling crimes.
'I am pleased that we are awarding over £200,000 to St Giles Trust. This, in addition to the funding from the Kent Police and Crime Commissioner, will help the charity protect local children from this very real danger and educate them on how to stay safe.
'Intervening early is at the core of our Serious Violence Strategy and it is vital that together, with police and charities, we have a coordinated approach to bring an end to violent crime.'
St Giles Trust CEO Rob Owen said:
‘This is fantastic news. The St Giles Trust has a proven track record of tackling county lines locally.
‘That’s why we have been campaigning so hard to secure their funding. This commitment of £800,000 means more of our young people in Dover and Deal will be saved from falling into the dark world of drugs and crime.’
Mr Scott’s Violence Reduction Challenge was launched last year to identify a Kent-specific response to the Government’s national Serious Violence Strategy. It has brought the police, other emergency services, local authorities and victims’ charities together to discuss rises in violent crime data. A report into how some of the underlying causes can be tackled will be published in the spring.
‘We are delighted to be able to continue our work in Kent helping vulnerable children and adolescents leave the destruction and misery of county lines exploitation and keep young people safe. It will enable us to build upon the success we have had since we started the project in September 2017 and work with our partners to bring our expertise in tackling county lines.
‘We are very grateful to Kent Police and Crime Commissioner Matthew Scott and the Home Office and look forward to helping many more young people get their lives back on track.’