NSPCC could leave its Gillingham base as part of charity shake up
National children's charity The NSPCC is consulting on plans to leave the county as part of a major shake up.
Up to 168 jobs could be lost nationally – 12 of them at its service centre in Gillingham.
Although no child from the county presently being helped will lose out, the charity will not be taking on future referrals.
The move is part of a nationwide reorganisation as bosses try to focus on how best to use resources.
The consultation, which started two weeks ago and runs until the end of August, suggests a new hub in Camden, London, would take on much of the work being done around the capital and south east.
In 2019/20, it helped a total of 74 children.
Youngsters – often victims of sexual abuse – are referred for help such as counselling and therapy by different sources but primarily council social services.
NSPCC assistant director of local services for London and the South East, Kellie-Ann Fitzgerald, explained the plans.
“Our mission is to prevent child abuse and we’re proposing a change to the way we run some of our local services to help us reach even more communities in Kent," she said.
“Childline will continue to be there for children who have nowhere else to turn and our helpline will be there for adults in the county who are worried about a child.
"Alongside this, we are proposing a hub in Camden would co-ordinate all of our regional work with schools, direct services, local campaigns and community partnerships, which have already supported another organisation to provide our hugely successful service for local victims of domestic abuse.
“But our face-to-face work with children from our base in Gillingham would come to an end.
"We’ve begun a consultation with staff and we’ll be listening to feedback and doing everything we can to support those affected.
“With less early or preventative help available for families, growing online safety concerns and the impact of the pandemic, we are extremely worried about the risks facing children.
"We believe we can have the greatest impact with the funding we have by trying to prevent abuse and neglect before it happens and these proposals would help us achieve that aim in Kent and across London and the South East.”
Reacting to the news, Labour's spokesman for children and young people, Cllr Clive Johnson, said: "The NSPCC is a key element in local safeguarding and ensuring our young people are safe.
"The loss of jobs, if confirmed, is a real concern.
"We will ask the NSPCC and the council about the potential impact on Medway's young people."