Sussex Village Agents Programme

What are Village Agents?

The Village Agents are a team of experienced rural community development specialists who work with local people to develop innovative and effective ways to bring services closer to rural people. The overall aim is to improve access to services for rural communities, to foster local provision and local solutions to identified issues and to improve the overall quality of life for all.

How do Village Agents operate?

Each Village Agent covers a specific geographical areas, often several adjoining parishes. Over time they get to know each community, building up their knowledge and understanding of what happens there and what gaps and local improvements in services have been identified. They will then work with community leaders, organisations and residents to find solutions to issues, improve local services and encourage new volunteers to get involved in local service delivery.

The support offered by Village Agents varies considerably. It may include any or all of the following:-

  • Helping with community consultation exercises and identifying needs and support for ideas
  • Advice and support in developing ideas and opportunities that meet the needs of local people
  • Direct support and mentoring for community leaders and volunteers, including establishing and operating new groups
  • Providing case studies, resources and information that can help in local delivery
  • Fostering links between communities and organisations
  • Organising training and networking meetings on behalf of volunteers
  • Help with recruiting and retaining volunteers.

Peer-to-Peer Networks

In addition to their work with individual communities, the Village Agents team organise a number of peer network meetings for community volunteers. These provide opportunities that can  spread good ideas and know-how, develop new skills, identify training needs and much more.

These networks currently include  Good Neighbour and Befriending Schemes, Lunch Clubs, Parent and Toddler groups, outdoor activities and community transport groups.

For more information on the meetings and events please contact the team (see details below) or monitor our Events page.

Our Team Members

The Village Agents team currently operates across East Sussex. The areas and contact details are listed under each team members.

Chiara Vagnerelli  (07773) 320315
Wivelsfield, Chailey, Newick, Ditchling, Westmeston, Streat, Plumpton, East Chiltington, Hamsey, St John Without, Falmer, St Ann Without, Kingston, Iford, Rodmell, Southease, Piddinghoe and western Lewes District parishes

Suzi Lock  
Eastern Lewes District and southern Wealden parishes: Alciston, Alfriston, Arlington, Barcombe, Beddingham,  Berwick, Chalvington with Ripe, Cuckmere Valley, East Dean and Friston, Firle, Glynde, Laughton, Long Man, Ringmer, Selmeston, South Heighton.

Donna Lonsdale O’Brien
South Wealden parishes: Buxted, Chiddingly, East Hoathly,  Fletching, Hadlow Down, Isfield, Little Horsted,  Uckfield.

Emma Newman  (07940) 275352
Northern Wealden parishes and north Rother District: Crowbrough, Danehill, Forest Row, Frant, Hartfield, Maresfield, Rotherfield , Wadhurst, Withyham.

Laura Heales  ( 07940) 275611
Eastern Wealden District and South Rother District: Hailsham, Heathfield, Hellingly, Herstmonceux, Horam,  Hooe, Mayfield, Ninfield, Polegate, Pevensey & Westham, Warbleton, Willingdon & Jevington, Wartling

The team manager is: Teresa Gittins (01273) 407306

Funding for the Village Agents programme is currently provided by East Sussex County Council and Big Lottery for the following projects:-

Rural Health and Wellbeing Programme   

These projects are funded by East Sussex County Council Public Health to promote, support and develop local initiatives, projects and activities that seek to improve an individual’s quality of life and access to healthy activities and lifestyles. The projects that have been supported under these programmes include good neighbour and befriending schemes, lunch clubs and afternoon activity groups, exercise and activity classes, community garden and growing projects, cooking activities, parent and toddler sessions.

Big Lottery – Reaching Communities Programme

AirS and Rother Voluntary Action have been successful in attracting Big Lottery funding to undertake a community development programme with a range of rural communities across East Sussex. The emphasis is on supporting individual communities to identify and address unmet needs through voluntary action and support the development of knowledgeable and trained village agents providing local community leadership and know-how. This is a 3 year programme that starts direct delivery with communities in January 2018.

The Sussex Village Agents programme has worked with the following organisations:-

  • East Sussex County Council to deliver programmes that address health and wellbeing issues.
  • East Sussex Healthwatch – ensuring that people living in rural areas are aware of Healthwatch and what it can offer, and encouraging people to provide feedback on their local health services.
  • East Sussex Fire and Rescue (ESF&R) Services – working in partnership to support and promote the Safe and Well visits as part of a rolling programme of visits by the ESF&R service across rural areas over the last 2 years.
  • UK Power Networks – promoting the register of vulnerable people in rural areas of East and West Sussex.
  • East Sussex Winter Warmth Campaign – working with others to ensure that information and benefits of the service reach rural areas and individuals living in fuel poverty.
  • Wealden District Council and The Wealden Partnership to raise awareness and seek solutions and spread ideas about reducing rural isolation and loneliness. In particular promoting and supporting the development of good neighbour schemes in the District.
  • Know Dementia and Dementia Friends – helping to raise awareness about dementia in rural communities.
  • The Village Agents have also worked in partnership with many other organisations to improve awareness, information and service delivery on a range of issues including: Wealden Citizens Advice Bureau, Rother Voluntary Action, Carer for the Carers, 3VA, MSK NHS Partnership, Age UK GP Surgery Community Navigators.

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