Kent County Council is preparing to lead an ambitious community-based programme of activities, to help children and young people reconnect with their pre-Covid-19 lives.
The Reconnect: Kent Children and Young People Programme will be available to every child and young person in Kent, from early years through to the end of secondary school and onto the age of 24 for young people with Special Educational Needs and Disabilities (SEND).
The idea behind Reconnect comes from young people in Kent, who told KCC they would prefer a positive programme focusing on opportunities rather than emphasising the ‘damage’ that may have been done to them or their futures by the pandemic. The programme will be developed in partnership with stakeholders, and existing organisations that already engage with children and young people will be heavily involved. It will be a whole-council endeavour, reaching across all Cabinet portfolios and involving all political parties. The views of children and young people will be at the heart of the programme.
The five aims of the programme are to help Kent’s children and young people reconnect to:
- Health and happiness
- Learning missed
- Family, friends and community
- Sport, activities and the outdoors
- Economic wellbeing
Each child and young person will be able to engage with the type of activity that will benefit them the most since everyone will have different needs and desires after the pandemic. Pupils who wish to make up for learning missed might choose to enrol in a summer school, while youngsters who want to give their physical health a boost after multiple periods of lockdown could be encouraged back to a sport they love or given the chance to take up a new type of activity, perhaps outdoors in the fresh air. There will be activities that focus on improving mental health, well-being and happiness and opportunities for social interaction with family, friends and members of the community who may not have seen one another face to face for more than a year. Other parts of the programme will focus on promoting economic well-being and boosting young people’s employment potential. Support will also be available for anyone within the age range who has lost a loved one to Covid-19.
Sue Chandler, KCC’s Cabinet Member for Integrated Children’s Services, said: “Children and young people have sacrificed so much throughout the pandemic to protect others, missing out on a year of formal schooling and vital social interactions with their friends and relatives, so this is Kent’s opportunity, as a whole community, to say thank you and to give something back to them. This is not about telling children and young people they must attend summer school or they have to start doing more exercise, this is about giving them opportunities to reconnect with the areas of their lives they wish to; this will be a programme of choice.
Speaking at Cabinet on Monday (March 15), Sue used the analogy of the ‘best activity trails’ and said: “I hope and intend that Reconnect will give all children and young people of Kent an inspirational and aspirational activity trail that for the next year and beyond helps them towards a better, brighter future.”
While KCC, schools and partner agencies will run many of the activities, the idea behind Reconnect is also for existing community groups, charities, voluntary organisations, sports clubs, and other bodies that already engage with children and young people to deliver some of what will be on offer. KCC is asking any group that believes it can help children and young people to reconnect with their pre-Covid-19 way of life, in line with any of the five aims, to get in touch using the details below. The programme could also assist organisations, for example by helping clubs recruit more members or new volunteers or buy new equipment, if doing so will help children or young people to reconnect.
Richard Long, KCC’s Cabinet Member for Education and Skills, said: “I would encourage everyone in Kent to ask themselves whether they could help too. Could your business donate computer or sports equipment? Do you have a spare evening to volunteer with a club? Any offer of support that helps children and young people reconnect will be greatly appreciated.”
It is anticipated Reconnect will run from the Easter holidays until August 2022. The programme will be in addition to, rather than instead of, existing services and commitments.
Matt Dunkley, KCC’s Corporate Director for Children, Young People and Education, said: “Reconnect will be led by KCC but its success will be dependent upon the whole community contributing. The community spirit demonstrated in Kent over the last year has been outstanding and we hope this will continue for the duration of the Reconnect programme and beyond for the benefit of our children and young people. We want our business community, other local authorities, charities and voluntary organisations, clubs and societies and individuals to help us make a difference and give all children and young people opportunities to engage in activities, old and new, and receive support, which enables them to reconnect to bright, positive futures. We are grateful to all those who have contacted us to offer help. The more people who get in touch, the more we can do for our children and young people; the aspiration of this programme is limitless.”
More details about the programme, including funding arrangements, will be set out after the May elections; all Government restrictions and guidance relating to the COVID-19 pandemic will be adhered to when planning each aspect of the programme.
- Find out more, sign up to receive the latest news, or pledge to make a contribution at www.kent.gov.uk/reconnect