Reconnect programme given £10 million by Kent County Council to help children and young people after coronavirus pandemic

A £10 million programme has been created to help children and young people following the Covid-19 pandemic.

Today, Kent County Council committed the money to its Reconnect: Kent Children and Young People Programme.

Health and happiness is one of the aims of the programme
Health and happiness is one of the aims of the programme

The scheme was launched in March and asked people from across the county to offer activities, opportunities and support for youngsters.

The five main aims of the programme are to help children reconnect to their health and happiness; missed learning; their friend, family and community; sports and activities and their economic welbeing.

Other local authorities, public bodies, MPs, schools, businesses, community groups and charities are all being asked to make a contribution.

At the request of the children and young people the programme will focus on giving them opportunities for their futures.

Reconnect will operate until the end of August 2022 and will help all age groups, from newborn babies and parents who were left isolated through to the end of secondary school. Young people with special educational needs and disabilities will be supported until the age of 24 with employment related activities.

Children have said they have missed spending time with their friends during the pandemic
Children have said they have missed spending time with their friends during the pandemic

Sue Chandler, Kent County Council’s cabinet member for integrated children’s services, said: “The younger generation has sacrificed so much over the past 15 months, putting their social lives with friends and family on hold, staying indoors rather than playing or exercising outside, and missing out on many months of the routine of in-school learning.

"They did this to keep their loved ones safe – as they were at a much higher risk of becoming seriously ill with COVID-19 than the children and young people themselves – and this is Kent’s chance to give something back to them.

“I would like to once again appeal to every Kent resident: please tell us how you would like to contribute to this exciting programme.

"Think about whether you could run an activity or spare a few hours a month to volunteer at a local club or at your child’s school. Perhaps you have a sports ground or a child-friendly premises that isn’t in use every day. Could your employer donate computer or sports equipment or other items?

Cllr Sue Chandler
Cllr Sue Chandler

"Is there an opportunity to offer a young person some work experience at your organisation? Any offer of help that would contribute towards the aims of the Reconnect programme would be gratefully received."

Feedback on the scheme found most children had missed socialising with their friends and being part of sports groups and clubs. It also found the cost and logistics of travel was a barrier for them.

A steering group made up of 11 to 18-year-olds from across Kent will be created to help inform the programme and share feedback. They will meet every two months and will also sit on the Reconnect Delivery Board.

The cabinet voted today to provide the £10m funding. Councillors had already agreed £5.3m for Holiday Activities and Food funding which is used by disadvantaged families during the school holidays. This will also come under the Reconnect umbrella.

Shellina Prendergast, Kent County Council’s Cabinet Member for Education and Skills, said: “I am very pleased that Cabinet has today approved the allocation of £10m to the Reconnect: Kent Children and Young People programme.

Cllr Shellina Prendergast. Picture: Andy Jones
Cllr Shellina Prendergast. Picture: Andy Jones

"This money will allow KCC, working alongside its partners and the community, to commission vital services, to deliver exciting opportunities, and to support others to run activities that will help our children and young people reconnect with all aspects of their lives that have been affected by the pandemic.

“Teachers and staff in schools and early years settings have worked incredibly hard throughout the pandemic, in extremely difficult circumstances, to educate and support Kent’s children and young people. They are now working just as hard to address missed learning and I would like to thank them once again for their tremendous efforts.

"We look forward to the Reconnect programme offering support in addition to the fantastic work already underway in schools and settings across the county.

“Reconnect will not only help pupils make up for the learning they have missed as a result of pandemic, but it will also help children and young people to focus on their mental and physical health and well-being, their social skills and their future career prospects.”

If you can offer your time or a donation that would help achieve the council's goals please visit the website.

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Read more news from My Kent Family here.

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