Isolation in Rural East Sussex – Findings from the East Sussex Rural Partnership

On Thursday 17th November approximately 60 representatives from the public, private and voluntary sector attended the meeting of the East Sussex Rural Partnership at High Hurstwood Village Hall.

This was the second of three meetings scheduled to explore a range of key themes currently affecting the rural parts of East Sussex, with this meeting focusing on health and well-being. In particular, it centred on ‘Overcoming isolation, promoting health & well-being and reducing anxiety amongst vulnerable people in rural East Sussex’.

Guest speaker Dr Elizabeth Gill, Chairman of the High Weald, Havens and Lewes Clinical Commissioning Group provided a primary care perspective on ‘Commissioning for Rural Areas’. This was followed by local organisations outlining the importance of co-operation and partnership working, with contributions from Juliet Mills (Sussex Police), David O’Driscoll (Forest Row Parish Council), Kay Birch (CAB) and Teresa Gittins (AirS).

2 workshops were held in the second half of the meeting. The first of these centred on table discussions to identify:

  • The causes of social isolation and who is at most risk of it;
  • The effects of people becoming isolated and the demands this places on caring/public services;
  • Identifying who can make the most impact in responding to preventing social isolation;
  • What does success in responding to isolation in communities look like and what impact might this have on caring/public services;

The second workshop focused on identifying how this information may be taken forward and used to better inform activity across rural East Sussex.

Summary Points

The information captured during the discussions and workshops has been summarised in a ‘Call for Action’ in order to develop a co-ordinated response to the issues raised – available separately here.

1. To be achieved through system wide developments to ensure rural isolation and services targeted on rural communities are actively linked up and supported:

  • Mainstream engagement by CCGs, ESCC and other statutory agencies over the impact of isolation on health and wellbeing outcomes in rural areas (ESBT, C4U etc.);
  • Use of mainstream community service budgets to support very local, community led solutions and roll out ‘what works’ (without introducing excessive ‘paperwork’);
  • Commitment from all to getting ESCIS up to date and not duplicate it with new initiatives;
  • Create improved liaison and understanding of services reaching out into rural areas amongst professionals and voluntary organisations;
  • Achieve a flexible roll out of Village Agents and Good Neighbour schemes across all of rural East Sussex;
  • Focus resources on supporting communities not on further mapping exercises or similar theoretical activity etc.

2. To be achieved through very local initiatives – parish or settlement –to find and support potentially isolated people:

  • Create local, voluntary, support for initiatives such as the Golden Ticket, pathway for people with dementia;
  • Raise public awareness and self-awareness of the risks of isolation in rural areas and thus inspire local action;
  • Reach people who are otherwise very hard to reach, especially for more formal and urban based services through support for very local initiatives;
  • Make more effective use of mainstream budgets by leveraging local input from volunteers, Parish Councils and other very local organisations.

The next step will be for Action in rural Sussex (on behalf of the Partnership) to formally ask the Local Authorities and the joint institutional arrangements that have been set up between Adult Social Care and the Health Service to address the issues raised at the event and discuss how action can be taken on them.

Next Meeting

The next East Sussex Rural Partnership meeting will focus on ‘Building the future – Neighbourhood plans, infrastructure and service planning’.

It will take place on Thursday 19th January 2017 at Barcombe Village Hall between 2.00pm and 4.30pm. To book a place directly please click the link below:

For more information on either the last or the next Rural Partnership meeting, in the first instance please contact:

Claire Reynolds
(01273) 407305

“Supporting rural communities in Sussex to be vibrant and diverse places in which to live and work.”