Hundreds of vulnerable children and young people, many in care or in trouble with the law, will gain access to a programme of mentoring and supporting to help them turn their lives around, following a grant from Kent Freemasons to the Young Lives Foundation (YLF)
The £89,000 grant will help develop activities in both Swale and Gravesham, where YLF will deliver a programme of sports, arts, music, drama and occasional field trips to residential centres offering skill-based activities such as water sports, climbing and camping.
There was a 60 per cent increase in referrals to the YLF last year following cuts in funding by local authorities, and more than 700 youth centres have been closed since 2010. YLF intends to respond by opening a youth hub in each of the 13 districts in Kent, providing a safe space for young people to meet, make the right friendships, learn new hobbies and interests, and build valuable relationships with our skilled volunteer mentors.
The cuts coincide with the rise of the so-called 'county lines' drug gangs which target young people and follow a 152 per cent increase in knife crime between 2010 and 2018.
YLF currently works with 1,500 young people in the Kent care system and wish to make the services available to more than 1,700 young people in care who are placed in Kent from other local authorities. They also work with 8,000 young people on the edge of care. There are over 70,000 in the care system nationally, with Kent having the most significant number per head.
The results of the YLF projects are very encouraging, with 81 per cent of young people in the programmes reporting an increase in self-confidence, which is crucial for young people seeking to change their behaviour.
The grant from Kent Freemasons comes through the Masonic Charitable Foundation (MCF), which is funded by Freemasons, their families and friends, from across England and Wales. Kent Freemasons are currently involved in five years of intensive fundraising for the MCF.
Stephen Gray, Chief Executive of the Young Lives Foundation, said: 'I'm very grateful to Kent Freemasons for their generous grant, which adds to substantial support we've already received from individual Freemasons lodges. We're also grateful to the many Freemasons who volunteer their free time to help us. Thanks to them we'll be able to offer many more very vulnerable young people the advice and support they need to turn their lives around.'
Neil Johnstone from Kent Freemasons said: 'We are pleased we've been able to help the Young Lives Foundation with their hugely important work. YLF provide positive role models and practical advice and support that can have a huge impact on helping vulnerable young people to stay out of trouble.'