Sussex Village Agents Programme

What are Village Agents?

The Village Agents are a team of rural community development specialists who work with local people to develop innovative and effective approaches that enhance people’s quality of life. To achieve this, they seek to harness the skills and interest of residents, as well as the physical and social assets available to them, to develop grassroots responses to local issues.

How do Village Agents operate?

Each Village Agent covers a specific geographical area, often several adjoining parishes. Over time, they utilise engagement techniques and develop relationships to build up knowledge of the issues and opportunities in each community, identifying similarities and differences, both between them and within them. They then support community leaders, volunteers and residents in developing responses tailored to their local circumstances.

The support offered by Village Agents varies considerably, this may include:

  • Advice on encouraging greater participation and interaction within communities;
  • Processes and techniques for engaging residents and identifying local issues;
  • Support for community leaders and volunteers, including in establishing and operating community groups;
  • Providing case-studies and examples of effective practice;
  • Fostering linkages between communities and service providers;
  • Signposting to relevant information, organisations and service providers;

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 networking opportunities that develop skills and knowledge but also help to spread good ideas and   know-how to those who attend.

These currently include network meetings for 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 run through these networks, please contact the administrator (see details below) or monitor our Events page.

Our Team Members

The Village Agents team currently operates across East Sussex. For more information please contact the Village Agent which covers the appropriate area or alternatively please contact the Administrator using the details below:

Gill Blackwood      (07899) 894975
Wealden District Parishes: Alfriston
Lewes District Parishes: Barcombe, Beddingham, Chailey, East Chiltington, Falmer, Glynde, Hamsey, Iford, Kingston, Piddinghoe, Ringmer, St Ann’s Without, St John’s Without, Wivelsfield.

Laura Heales      (07940) 275611
Wealden District Parishes: Hailsham, Heathfield, Hellingly, Herstmonceux, Hooe, Mayfield, Ninfield, Polegate, Pevensey & Westham, Warbleton, Willingdon & Jevington.
Rother District Parishes:
All parishes.

Emma Newman      (07940) 275352
Wealden District Parishes: Crowborough, Danehill, Forest Row, Frant, Hartfield, Maresfield, Rotherfield, Wadhurst, Withyham.

Claire Reynolds     (01273) 407305
Wealden District Parishes: Berwick, Chalvington with Ripe, Cuckmere Valley, East Dean, Longman, Selmeston. 
Rother District Parishes:
Shared with Laura Heales (see above).

Chiara Vagnarelli      (07773) 320315
Wealden District Parishes: Buxted, Chiddingly, East Hoathly, Fletching, Framfield, Hadlow Down, Laughton, Uckfield.
Lewes District Parishes: Ditchling, Newick, Plumpton, Wesmeston, Wivelsfield.

Programme Manager:                    Teresa Gittins               (01273) 407306

Programme Administrator:          Claire Reynolds           (01273) 407305

For general questions please contact Claire Reynolds in the first instance.

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.”