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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

Malling Edition March 2012 No. 179 Homeless rise as economy suffers

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-

Solo success for choristers

THREE youngsters from The Malling School choir were chosen to take on solo roles in a charity concert atWem- bley Arena.

Year11students Louie Smithandtwins ChristaandZoe

Dawson, all aged 15, were singled out after auditioning to join the stage choirat theVoice inaMillion event in aid of the British Adoption and Fostering Agency. Twenty- seven members of the East Malling school choir joined around 5,000 children from schools across the country to form a mass choir, supporting a small choir and soloists on stage.

Louie sang partof “ThereYou’llBe”andChristaandZoe

sang “And I’m Telling You”. The school’s head of music Elaine Cox, said: “The girls

were fantastic. They truly proved howworthy theywere of their selection.”

Paper investment for Snodland

ASNODLANDfirm’smassive in- vestment in new equipment has been hailed as “wonderful news for the town”. The Smurfit Kappa Group has announced that it is spending around £98million on upgrading machinery at its Townsend Hook paper mill, which manufactures recycled containerboard forpack-

aging. The move has been welcomed

as a huge boost for the area. Snodland Town Council chair-

manAnne Moloney,who is also a Tonbridge and Malling council- lor, said: “I think it’s the most wonderful news. It means that jobs that people were concerned were at risk, are going to be


Inside this edition: The magical mystery tour heads to West Malling, and there are details on events for the Queen’s Diamond Ju- bilee. MAP supports people, businesses and events in West Malling and the 10 parishes around it.

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."

Village scheme boosts internet

WEST Peckham village is now able to receive super-fast broadband, thanks to a groundbreaking scheme funded by a group of local businesses. Until now, if they have been able to receive broadband at all, many local residents have had connection speeds among the slowest in the country (typ- ically less than 1 Mbps), but can now leapfrog the national average to much faster speeds – with some reporting a thirty fold increase. West Peckham was unsuccessful in

its bid to KCC for a community broad- band grant, losing out last year

P4 P3 Trust receives formal warning

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

Church school entry criteria tightened P4


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


Kept in dark over new children’s hub P31


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

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