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Maidstone & Malling’s No 1 - 88,000 copies - 4 editions Maidstone East Edition March 2012 No.179 Homeless rise as economy suffers

HOMELESSNESS in Maidstone has reached a worrying level, with the past 12 months showing a dramatic increase in those hav- ing nowhere to live. Since April 2011, 62% of people seeking housing advice at Maidstone Council's Gateway centre presented as homeless, compared with 24% the previous year. Domestic abuse and mortgage arrears

were cited among the biggest contributing factors in a report from the borough's head of housing services manager, Neil Coles. Maidstone Day Centre now has up to 40 people a day dropping in for food, showers and advice on how to get off the streets. Most are not the stereotypical “park bench” sleepers, with businessmen and professionals now numbering among those on the homeless register, as well as young people whose parents can no longer afford to keep them. Day centre manager Sue Tallowin said:

“Most of our clients do not look homeless and you would never guess. They don’t want to draw attention to themselves and they don’t want any trouble.” Increasing numbers of young people be- come “sofa-surfers” when they leave school

A FRUSTRATED Bearsted father has launched an online petition in a last des- perate bid to have his daughter recognised as a UK citizen. Nine-year-old Maija Clark was born in

the UK and has lived in Bearsted all her life, where she is now a happy, thriving pupil at Roseacre Junior School. However, because her mother is Finnish and her par- ents have never been married, the Govern- ment is refusing to give her a UK passport. Her father Mick Clark, of Ashford Road,

and his former partner Satu Jokinen were together for four years but separated in 2005.

New hub for children’s services - but where was consultation?

A NEW one-stop shop for chil- dren’s services in the Maidstone borough is about to launch in Coxheath – apparently after min- imal consultation. From early April, children’s therapy services, community paediatricians and the child and adolescent mental health services will move to the refurbished Heathside House in Heath Road, which used to be a dementia clinic. The services are currently pro-

vided in Preston Hall in Ayles- ford, Gatland House in Fant, Maidstone Hospital and Foster Street and Union Street, which

are both in Maidstone town cen- tre. The Kent Community Health NHS Trust insists many of these sitesare outofdateand do not offer modern facilities. It has been known for many

years that Grade II-listed Preston Hall was to close – all services are due to be out by the end of March, a housing scheme for 318 dwellingswas unveiled last sum- mer – but service users were not told that many of the services would be transferred to Cox- heath, fourmiles south of town. Ailsa McMahon, manager of charity M4S Maidstone Special Needs Support Service,


and their parents can no longer claim bene- fits. “We hear the same stories time and time again – ‘my mum can’t afford to keep me’ is a recurring theme. There are also youngsters who leave home as a result of disputes with a step-parent. Someone else’s children aren’t quite so appealing when they become belligerent teenagers,” said Sue.

Most people who present as homeless are

local, but Maidstone also suffers from the occasional ex-convict released from jail with nowhere to go. “Their families don’t want to know them,

they have no money and they don’t know what to do. On paper, there might be a re- habilitation plan, but it doesn’t always hap- pen that way.” Sue and her staff regularly encounter strong, proud menwho break down in tears. She said: “They have always been the bread-winners, supporting their partners and families. When they come to us, they have lost their jobs, their homes and their self respect.” With housing benefit changes due to come

into effect in April, the council expects to see an increase in the number of tenantsmi-

Mick Clark is campaigning for daughter Maija to get UK citizenship

grating from London to Kent and the day centre is bracing itself for even more heartache. Sue said: “We never turn anyone away –

but we can’t offer them overnight P6

MP: Problem getting worse RARELY a week goes by without someone appealing for help with housing to MP Helen Grant. The member for Maidstone andWeald said housing was one of the key issues constituents brought to her Albion Place surgeries. "The problem is ongoing and getting worse," she said. "There is simply not enough housing available." Overcrowdingwas a particular problem,

said theMP. "When you have a family of four sharing

a one-bedroomed flat, difficulties are bound to arise.Youngparents with young children find it exceptionally hard to cope and living in cramped conditions simply adds to the difficulties. You can see situations which you know have the potential to implode and you have to do everything you can to get them out."

Petition seeks to recognise Maija as UK citizen

The courts awarded Maija’s parents shared residence and she spends the weekdays dur- ing term-time with her father and most weekends with her mother, who now lives in London. ‘Tack on’ legislation in 2006 created the current anomaly and it was when Mr Clark tried to get a passport for his daughter after that date that he was refused. Mr Clark said: “I amMaija’smain carer but

I still have to ask her mother to borrow her passport to take her on holiday. “So far, we have only travelled within the

EU so not encountered any problems, but the situation could be very different if we wanted to travel further afield.Maija is

Trust is formally warned

THE Independent health regula- tor has issued a formal warning to Maidstone and Tunbridge Wells NHS Trust that it must make immediate improvements. The Care Quality Commission

(CQC) has delivered two warn- ing notices following an unan- nounced inspection of the Accident and Emergency de- partment at the TunbridgeWells Hospital at Pembury in January. Inspectors found that the trust

wasinbreachoftwo of thegov- ernment’s essential standards for

Sport awards for Maidstone youth P3


care and treatment, covering care and welfare of people and staffing levels. Inspectors were concerned

that the trust was not taking ap- propriate steps to make sure that people experienced safe and ap- propriate care that met their needs.

Clinical staffing problems in

the minor injury unit were at- tributed to staff having been transferred to the major injury unit, but that unit also appeared to be understaffed. Staff


Eighty new homes on greenfield land P28


The Big Yellow Building, St Peters St, Maidstone 0800 652 0102

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