By Local Democracy Reporter Ciaran Duggan
Community wardens could receive a £1million boost from Kent County Council to expand the scheme.
For 18 years the Kent community warden service (KCWS) has served local communities by preventing crime, supporting vulnerable residents and tackling social isolation.
Amid the coronavirus emergnency, the 70-strong force have been delivering essential food parcels, hot and cold meals to vulnerable residents and maintaining key supplies from shops and eateries.
However, the demands for the neighbourhood warden scheme are expected to surge due to the public health crisis. Expanding the service has been prioritised by Kent County Council’s (KCC) Conservative administration, which runs it.
Maidstone county councillor Ian Chittenden (Lib Dem), who has been pushing for expansion of wardens into urban areas since 2015, says the service provides “excellent social care” for local communities and “fully supports” the move.
In Kent, the feared increase of criminality, particularly door-to-door scamming and anti-social behaviour, remains a key concern for the county-wide authority during the Covid-19 crisis.
In addition, Kent’s over 65 population is forecast to grow by 25% by 2030, marking a significant increase to the current demands of the community warden service.
Wardens currently work across 128 Kent communities, including Sevenoaks, Maidstone, Thanet, Canterbury and Ashford. Dozens of staff are out between 7.30am and 10pm seven days a week.
They are responsible for tackling low-level crime, controlling traffic, offering advice and working closely with Kent Police and other public authorities, but their role has broadened during the coronavirus emergency.
KCC, who administer and run the neighbourhood warden scheme, submitted a £1m proposal to expand the service eight days ago. If approved, the cash will come from the authority’s own budget, which was approved by full council in February.
Maidstone county councillor Ian Chittenden (Lib Dem), who has been pushing for expansion of wardens into urban areas since 2015, says the service provides “excellent social care” for local communities.
Cllr Chittenden added: “Community wardens understand their areas and get to know the people in them very well.
“They have taken over the roles of PCSOs whose responsibilities have expanded to cover up to three wards rather than one. I hope these plans are approved as soon as practibly possible.”
A final decision will be made by KCC’s cabinet member for community, Cllr Mike Hill (Con), after June 3.