17-08-17 – National Citizens Service


Dragons' Den panellists conjure a vision of beasts of business inflicting savage critiques upon aspiring entrepreneurs. Exhaling fire isn't my thing really but this was not the BBC show either.

I was invited to attend the Dragons' Den phase of the National Citizens Service (NCS) programme in Maidstone, alongside KCC Cabinet Member for Young People, Roger Gough. We were there to offer feedback and guidance on group presentations from 100 Maidstone teenagers who'd put together ideas for raising funds for Maidstone Charities.

Their 'social action plans' form just a part of the four-week summer holiday NCS course where 15-17 year olds from all backgrounds come together for a shared experience. Living away from home, they participate in a range of workshops, site visits and outdoor activities, helping them develop the skills needed to deliver their social action project.

I was so impressed with the standard of presentation, the confidence, teamwork and general togetherness of these groups. It was clear a lot of bonding had taken place over the course and I suspect some of the friendships formed will last a lifetime.

The core of the NCS scheme is to address some of the most urgent challenges in British society today: social cohesion, civic engagement and social mobility. As a result of this course these young people feel more equipped to tackle social problems, become better leaders, are more confident about finding a job, and feel more positive towards other young people from different backgrounds.

Over the past three years NCS Maidstone has hosted almost 200 participants who have collectively donated more than 6,000 volunteering hours to their local community. In the process they have built valuable and often lasting relationships with important local organisations and charities.

I commend the charities www.CXK.org and www.catch-22.org.uk for delivering the excellent NCS programme in my constituency. If you want to find out more click here.

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Helen's column is published weekly in the Kent Messenger. Please note the print version may differ from the content here.


Local MP Helen Grant meets Rocky Hill residents

Following an electrical fire that occurred at Rocky Hill Terrace in London Road, Maidstone, on May 24th Fire Officers have recommended safety improvements to the building. This will require all 38 residents in 36 flats to be relocated. The residents are a group of older people some of whom have additional mobility and health issues.

Helen Grant MP was contacted by Simon Clark, Group Director – Housing, Sanctuary Group, which owns the property, to make her aware of the situation.

Helen said 'The safety of these residents is paramount and it does seem that the improvements needed to the structural compartmentation of the building will require the property to be vacated. I am very mindful of the distress experienced by so many being relocated following the fall-out of the Grenfell Tower disaster; my immediate concerns were therefore about how the need for relocation would be explained and then carried out. Clearly this will be a very sensitive time for the people affected and many have lived there for a long period of time'.

'I visited residents on Friday with Mr Clarke to speak with them myself, to ensure they received substantive answers to their questions and to act on their behalf in holding the landlords to account.

Initially I did share residents' suspicions that the works may be a convenient excuse to gain vacant possession of the building prior to redevelopment into more valuable units.

Having had the meeting I feel more reassured that there isn't an underlying ulterior motive like that and that the reasons for relocation are genuine.

I am also satisfied that Sanctuary are managing this process in a caring and sensitive manner. Sensibly they have not put an immediate timescale on the process as they do not want to add that kind of pressure to the residents. Their focus is upon moving each and every individual to a home that suits them and one that they are happy with'.

Simon Clark said 'We have been talking to residents and their families in one to one meetings throughout this week. We have a dedicated a team of senior and experienced housing staff taking them through the process sensitively and carefully.

'In addition to providing the residents with an on-site Liaison Officer, we are speaking to relevant statutory agencies and appropriate local charities about whether there is further support that can be given'.

'All residents will have a choice about their accommodation. The alternative properties identified so far are of good quality, desirable and nearby their existing homes. However, if any of the residents would like to view other homes we will, of course, oblige.'

Mrs Grant will continuing monitoring the issue until all residents are re-housed appropriately.


17 AUG 2017

National Citizens Service

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HELEN GRANT MP

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