1. Attendance

  • Bexhill Dementia Action Alliance
  • Hastings and Rother Rainbow Alliance
  • Care for the Carers
  • Little Gate Farm
  • Rother District Council
  • Cllr Chris Madeley
  • Cllr Lynn Langland
  • Citizens Advice

2. Apologies

  • DISC Dementia Support
  • Sussex Police
  • Rother Voluntary Action
  • Dance-Ability
  • Homecall
  • Rother Seniors Forum
  • East Sussex Hearing
  • Human Resources & Customer Services from Rother District Council

Malcolm Johnson opened the meeting by welcoming new members to the group and informing the group that he will be retiring at the end of May 2023, so this will be his last meeting.

The group sent their condolences to Cathy Care, on regards of the passing of her husband Alan Care, who will be highly missed member of this group.

3. Tracy – Citizens Advice

Tracy showed the group a PowerPoint presentation about Citizen Advice and what issues residents are facing and how they can get the help & advice.

Tracey said thank you to everyone for listening to her and if you want to contact her then please email or phone.

4. Richard – Elections at RDC

Richard went through the voting photo ID requirements with the group.

Voter ID – Introduction

  • The UK Government has introduced a requirement for voters to show photo ID when voting at a polling station.
  • This new requirement will apply for the first time in England at the local elections on Thursday 4 May 2023
  • Anyone who does not have an existing form of acceptable photo ID will be able to apply for a free voter ID Document, which is known as a Voter Authority Certificate

Accepted forms of photo ID

  • Passport issued by the UK, any of the Channel Islands, the Isle of Man, a British Overseas Territory, an EEA state, or a Commonwealth country.
  • Driving license issued by the UK, Northern Ireland, the Channel Islands, the Isle of Man, or an EEA state.
  • A blue badge
  • Older Person’s Bus Pass
  • Disabled Person’s Bus Pass
  • Oyster 60+ Card
  • Freedom Pass
  • National Entitlement Card
  • Smart Pass (Senior, Registered Blind or Blind Person’s, War Disablement or War Disabled, 60+, Half Fare)
  • Identity card bearing the Proof of Age Standards Scheme hologram (a PASS card)
  • Biometric immigration document
  • Ministry of Defence Form 90
  • National identity card issued by an EEA state.

If you need any paper copies of about voter’s ID’s, information, easy read and leaflets then please collect from Debbie. Also, electronic copies are available for everyone and if you would like a copy of this presentation. Please email Elections@rother.gov.uk

5. Organisations Update

Hastings & Rother Rainbow Alliance

Have just produced a new booklet which outlines our aims in raising awareness of the needs of LGBT+ (lesbian, gay, bi, trans +) local communities, and details the wide range of social groups we support to prevent social isolation. (Available at RDC reception)

The Council will again be flying the new Progressive Pride flag over the Town Hall on IDAHOBIT Day (International Day Against Homophobia and Transphobia) May 17th. Hate crime, particularly against trans people, is still very prevalent. Rainbow Alliance trustees will be holding an awareness session for Rother councillors and officers on May 15th.

We are liaising with the latest Community Engagement police officer for LGBT communities.

Many thanks to Debbie from Rother District Council for her help in arranging equipment for our AGM 24th March 2023, where we have a presentation by actor and researcher Clare Summerskill on LGBT Oral History.

Little Gate Farm

A few things to update on: –

  • We have just moved into our new offices in Bexhill in High Weald House. We are creating more opportunities in the Bexhill area, and this will be a great hub for all our colleagues who work remotely.  Our colleagues are already loving it. We also work very closely with The Pelham so great to now be a neighbour.
  • We are currently part of the Hastings Connected Futures project – looking at disadvantaged young people who are NEET an important project reviewing the impact of employment for all young people including the LD/Autistic community we serve and to support this to work for the future it needs the support of Local Employers and community groups.
  • Little Gate Big Cream Tea – cream tea (incredible cakes!) at the farm with music (most likely Jazz!) Sunday 14th May 1pm until 5pm.
  • We are recruiting for several vacancies both working on our Supported Employment programme and at the farm itself.  Here is a link Work for us — Little Gate   Vacancies include – Job Coach,  Employer Engagement Officer, Skills Coach (Catering at the Farm), Cut Flower Social Enterprise Leader, Children and Young People Outdoor Learning Facilitator, Young Ranger Facilitator, Young Ranger Support Staff, Digital Communications Officer.
  • We had a successful day at the De La Warr Jobs Fair last week and got several CVs for some of these posts.
  • This week is Neurodiverse Celebration Week and yesterday we were invited to DWP JCP to showcase what we do.  There were three of us, one of our job coaches, one of our trainees and me.  It was a virtual presentation to Work Coaches and colleagues in JCPs across the South East. We were able to deliver ours from the Bexhill JCP office itself.  At one stage there were 966 viewers! We had a lot of positive comments afterwards. It was a great way to encourage work coaches to speak to employers and clients about us.


Since the last meeting, we have had several events.

We held a Christmas Fayre at the end of November which was well attended and raised money for Homecall.

A Christmas Party was held at the Egerton Bowls club for Homecall clients, volunteers, and supporters. Everyone had a lovely time and for those clients that were not able to attend a Christmas present was delivered.

We held a fundraising quiz night at the end of February which was good fun and the first quiz night organised since the lockdown.

In February we celebrated 4years of the VIP HUB coffee morning at Wetherspoon, Bexhill. This is a weekly drop in coffee morning for any visually impaired person in the area to come along to and meet others. We are grateful for the support provided by the team at The Picture Playhouse.

Recently we have had visits from Cllr Ian Hollidge who has been listening to the concerns about the pavements in the area. This has been very beneficial and on his last visit he also attended with a member of the enforcement team of East Sussex Highways who explained how issues can be raised.

A notable achievement is that the Homecall volunteer team, as a collective group were awarded volunteer of the year award at the RVA AGM in December. The 5 volunteers that attended to collect the award on behalf of everyone had 108 years volunteering between them. The award was very much deserved, and the volunteer team continue to support visually impaired people remain independent in their own homes.

Since September 2022 an additional 10 visually impaired people have joined Homecall to benefit from our home visiting scheme and another 3 people are awaiting assessment.

In addition to self-referrals, referrals are received from a variety of sources including the PCN (Primary Care Network) Social Services, RNIB, Bexhill Hospital and local charities.

We are trying to raise awareness of Homecall and generate interest in volunteering we have made an appeal on the RVA website, I have attended a social morning at the Marina to do a talk and I am planning on writing to see if the local paper is able to help. We are also planning on attending some of the events planned later in the year on the sea front. This is in addition to social media posts and mentioning at our fundraising events where possible. Any other suggestions and ideas are greatly received.

Care for the Carers

Think Caring awareness training, will be available online through our website, if you want any more information then please contact Carole Gregory.

The Sussex Carers Partnership, which includes Care for the Carers, Carers Support West Sussex and The Carers Centre for Brighton and Hove, we have secured funding from Carers Trust to help develop services that will address the barriers, challenges and needs experienced by under-represented carers from ethnic minority communities across Sussex.

Bexhill Dementia Action Alliance (BDAA)

Singing Down Memory Lane has changed its venue to St Augustine’s Church Hall & is now taking on a Friday morning every fortnight and has been coordinated by Home Instead but it run by a group of volunteers. Also, the Companionship café has continued to take place on 3rd Friday of the month at St. Augustine’s Church Hall Cooden Drive Bexhill, this has continued to be supported by Rother District Council, Herrington’s and Home Instead, there is range of activities that people can join in, with refreshments, which is free to everyone.

We will be arranging another information event for National Dementia Action Alliance week (15th – 25th May 2023) as the last one a great success. Also, we are looking at accessible venues for Dementia Friendly film screenings. BDAA will be looking at having another Memory Walk in September.

6. Hastings and Rother Ageing Well Network Meeting

The meeting took place on 14th November at the Town Hall in Bexhill in the Council Chamber, we had a brilliant turn out. It was decided that we would have separate meetings for Hastings and Rother and then met up jointly a couple of times a year, so that each Ageing well network could look at issues and gaps in services in each area. The next Rother Ageing network meeting is on 22nd March at the Town Hall, and we will be looking at the work that Citizen advice are doing on digital exclusion and there will be a presentation from Richard about voting with photo ID. We will be arranging these meetings every eight weeks. If you have not been invited, then please fill in your contact details so that Naomi from RVA can send you an email invite with the agenda.

7. Future Speakers and AOB

We would like Lucie Bolton coming along to talk about Rother Environmental strategy and Elise about the village hall project. Also, about asking Josh Broadway from Bexhill PCN to talk about Social Prescribing.

At the end of the meeting Lorna said that she will be taking over Malcolm’s role as chair for future meetings.

Rother DC in partnership with Sussex Police, RVA, DLWP, Southern Housing & 18hours we are relaunching Rother Race Action Forum and looking at holding an event on Black History month in 2024.

8. Dates of future meetings for 2023 at the Town Hall

Committee room 2pm-4pm

  • Wednesday 15th March
  • Wednesday 19th July
  • Wednesday 15th November

1. Welcomes, Introductions and Apologies

DP: Any feedback from the introduction of Voter ID at the last election?

LF: Went better than thought, no issues across the District.

2. Terms of Reference Review (Lorna, LF)

The reason for the review is that we need to ensure the Terms are still fit for purpose.

NM: The biggest change is to the name of the group, to include. How people can access the services has a bigger focus. Happy to have feedback regarding groups that might have been missed.

Cllr Coleman: I want the group to be bolder and act where necessary, working to push that side of things with NM.

Steve S: With any group that is set up, the officers of the Authority need to feel comfortable coming to those external organisations for help on different issues.

LF: We tend to work with the same groups. We must ensure that we are not missing people.

Terry S: When this group was first created, we went around the town to create a map of accessible shops etc.

DP: This is on the council website has been updated and it has google function. I did go and give some advice with East Sussex Building Control to certain shops looking at ramps and access. Our own buildings were updated to meet the criteria.

Claire P: The street furniture from café’s has been moving out further onto the pavement leaving less space for those with disabilities.

Steve S: The licensing officers don’t enforce the regulations; they were relaxed due to Covid. It’s a problem they face constantly. This also includes hedges, trees, verges etc overhanging the path.

LF: We may be able to do some Comms regarding this.

3. Rother Corporate Plan Update (Nicola, NM)

Very brief update, to focus on partnerships, where we can improve, where we are now and where we want to be. Draft to be completed by the end of September with public consultation taking place afterwards. Any gaps that we’ve missed, please raise.

LF: Much more focus on equalities than previously, this has been made into a portfolio with Cllr Coleman as the holder.

DP: Use the groups newsletters to spread the information and contact the members of the community this focuses on.

Steve S: Any idea when consultation will start?

NM: October/November.

Steve S: Our newsletters are 3 times per year, the next one end of August so if any updates please provide by then.

4. Rother Population data (DP)

Presentation on data taken from the 2021 Census by Debbie Peters.

Cllr Coleman: Socio-economic duty was never taken on by the English Government, we have actively included it as well as the protected characteristics. When researching the Census and comparing areas, you can really see where different characteristics affect deprivation levels.

DP: The Equalities strategy will revolve around the data from the Census.

LF: Have a look at the data from the Census being published on our website.

5. Rother Ageing Well Network update (NM)

We are working with RVA to take the age friendly plan forward with different actions. Still working on the theme within the working plan.

Naomi R: If anybody wishes to share information with the network then please do. Looking at getting sessions back up and running. They have stalled lately due to staffing changes and funding stopping.

6. AOB

Steve S: Consultation on-going regarding closure of ticketing offices at train stations. Self-service machines are not accessible. People in need of support are going to be far worse off if they close. Training in visual awareness has been given to Fibre broadband companies in the Eastbourne area, and we are happy to do this in Rother. Please pass any thoughts to LF.

Claire Prime: I can get feedback from a group of people who will be affected by this.

Rother Senior Forum: Older People’s Day; provide any leaflets or information to me by 31 July which will go out to 500 members with the Older Peoples booklets, in which the post is being provided by ESCC. Event being held in Bodiam on 3rd October.

Homecall: Weekly coffee morning held in Bexhill Wetherspoons which is well attended. Open to any visually impaired people. Grateful for the help provided by Wetherspoons and wish to thank them. We attended the Bexhill showcase recently and managed to speak to a lot of people. Talks were given in the area to let people know about the charity and build more networks. In the last report, we were short of volunteers. Since then, we have taken on an additional 6 with 3 pending applications. 59 visually impaired people supported in the area. Don’t need to be registered as visually impaired.

Looking at the ‘big switch off’ where the Government will be stopping landlines, all phone calls to be taken over Wi-Fi. A lot of people will be affected by this.

CAB and Factory Internet (digital inclusion workshops for older people in Rye) might know about this and might be able to do some talks.

Steve S: All of this will be piggybacked off the back of the fibre installations. Worth asking the providers what will happen.

Nobody should be affected, old phones with copper wire will just be connected differently, they can still be used. For more information, please see: Digital Voice and the landline phone switch-off: what it means for you – Which?

Terry S: My lifeline was upgraded for free to the latest Wi-Fi version.

Cllr Coleman: Personally, I’m keen to become an expert in this field as it is now my portfolio.

DISC: we run support groups and courses, with the next support group in Rye next month, and at the Town Hall. We now have sessions in Bexhill, Eastbourne, Robertsbridge and Rye. The singing down memory lane group has also been taken over by DISC and is now free, which was set up by Bexhill Dementia Action Alliance. Also, we provide carers courses across East Sussex.

DP: Bexhill Dementia Action Alliance has its memory walk 17th September 11am from DLWP to West Parade and back.

Little Gate Farm: We provide support to people with disabilities to find employment by giving them training courses, supported apprenticeships etc. The Young Rangers programme is for people aged 8-21 to come and go camping, forestry etc. If you know anybody who is a parent/carer whose children may benefit from Little Gate’s services, please get them in contact.

Hastings and Rother Rainbow Alliance: We raise awareness through sessions for people on LQBTQ+ issues. Cllrs & Staff were positive about the training they received, looking at another session for new Cllrs and staff.

Naomi R: I’ve been attending local transport meetings with ESCC looking at their 25-year transport plan. The draft version will be out in the Autumn, worth the members of this group having a look at it to make sure everything is covered. Healthwatch are working with ESCC to look at the patient’s perspective of experiences in the health sector. Will be sitting in Tilling Green for a couple of months. Hub on Rye Hill are also having an old people’s day. Tribe: sign up if you haven’t already. Will become the dominant facility for matching volunteers.

Date of next meeting: Wednesday 15 November 2023, Town Hall Committee room at 2pm


  • Nicola Mitchell (RDC)
  • Cllr Sam Coleman
  • Emma Jones (CFTC)
  • Mark Adams (RDC)
  • Chris Watchman (RDC)
  • Mary Benton (HRRA)
  • Terry Steeples (RSF)
  • Linda Seddon (RRAF)
  • Harris Reed (RDC)
  • Christine Madeley (Talking Newspaper)
  • Kim Richards (RVA)
  • Dee and Nancy (Little Gate)

1. Welcomes, Introductions and Apologies

Apologies from Lorna Ford (RDC), Tracy Dighton (CA1066), Claire Prime (Homecall).

2. Updates from July 2023 meeting

Thank you for your contributions regarding the ticket office closures.

3. RDC Council Tax Reduction Consultation (Chris Watchman)

Presentation by Chis Watchman (attached). 

In summary, RDC is proposing to increase the maximum level of Council Tax Reduction support to 100% and remove the minimum award of £5 per week. 

Have your say: Council Tax Reduction Scheme 2024/25 consultation – Rother District Council 

Consultation closes 22 December 2023; results will be published at Full Council in February.

4. RDC Digital and Customer Services Strategy (Mark Adams)

Presentation from Mark Adams (attached). 

Aiming to achieve an omnichannel customer experience – seamless and effortless high quality customer experiences that occur within and between contact channels. 

REDI Action: Assist identifying key stakeholders, engage and consult with groups and capture input. Review and feedback will take place in March 2024. 

Working with Sarah Jacques on rural outreach for those who do not have digital access. Noted the community hub work is volunteer, no paid for resource. 

Action, MA:  

1. Provide an overview of what we are already doing and work already undertaken.  

2. Provide details of who is on the strategy steering group 

3. Organise a meeting with Comms at RVA via Kim Richards 

4. Provide a scripted update to Christine Madeley to include with the Talking Newspaper 

REDI: Discussion on how to include people who are not digitally enabled / the gaps, who are RDC not hearing from? What could organisations be focussing on to support the gaps and how? 

TS: Noticeboards in local businesses may help reach those who are not online. Local paper advertising?  

Action: NM/MA to review data RDC holds from the groups we are hearing from.   

Action: Future REDI meeting, workshop to explore.  

MB: What will AI be used for? 

MA: Can be utilized for admin heavy processes but needs some human intervention, i.e. a homeless customer.

5. RDC Budget Consultation (Nicola Mitchell)

Presentation from Nicola Mitchell (attached). Video message from Cllr Ruairi McCourt. 

The Council has a budget deficit of £3.8 million. 

Take part in the consultation, as a resident and organisation: 2024/25 Budget Consultation – Financial Challenges Ahead – Rother District Council – Closes Sunday 17 December. Results published at Full Council in February. 

SC: Difficult position to be in, Members and Officers do not go into their roles to reduce offering to residents.

6. Organisation Updates

LS: Looking forward to project at Sidley Recreation Ground. 

EJ: Community Engagement CFTC: a lot of people come when they are already in crisis. New volunteer coordinator on board so recruiting volunteers is a high priority now. 

Dee and Nancy: Little Gate College is launching next September to help young people get the skills to go into work. It will be based at the Pelham. Their Future Ready Programme has been set up for those who are not quite ready to go into work. There is also an internship programme for those who can work and study for a qualification.  

MB: Personal note: I’m retiring as secretary; Andrew Barton will be taking over. Steering group thanked MB for work and contributions. 

KR: Our Comms and Marketing team has grown to help support groups. We will be looking to run workshops for local groups to help improve their comms and marketing. 

TS: Two functions have been put on this year, currently planning for next year’s events. Funding has been an issue. 

Action: HR, speak with Terry regarding Rother Community Lottery fundraising opportunity. 

Update from Claire Prime at Homecall: 

Since the last meeting in July 2023: 

The drop in coffee morning at Wetherspoon, the picture playhouse continues to be well attended and Homecall are extremely grateful for the support provided by the team there. We usually have between 15 and 20 people in attendance.  

Homecall held their AGM and Volunteer Long service Awards in September, several long service awards were presented including one for 20 years of volunteering with Homecall and one for 25 years of volunteering with Homecall.  

I was given the opportunity to give 2 talks for local organisations one for the Little Common WI and one for the Senlac. These are good opportunities to talk about visual impairment and share the work Homecall and the volunteer team does with people who may not know about the scheme.  

On 25th November Homecall held their Christmas Fayre fundraising event, we were very grateful to the people that helped and attended the event. This event raised £1452 for Homecall.  

On 4th December Homecall had a Christmas Lunch for Clients, Volunteers and Supporters with over 80 people in attendance.  

Since July an additional 8 visually impaired people have joined Homecall to benefit from our home visiting scheme. We have also had an additional 8 volunteer visitors join our volunteer team. In total we have 54 visually impaired members and 47 volunteer visitors.  

In addition to self-referrals, referrals are received from a variety of sources including the PCN (Primary Care Network) Social Services, RNIB, Bexhill Hospital and local charities.

7. AOB

Cllr Coleman: Cost of Living in the run up to Christmas is a priority, please sign post those struggling to the right channels. 

KR: RVA are focusing support on those organisations running support services over Christmas. Please send to them hello@rva.uk.com to share and help with Comms. 

Action HR: Send out Terms of Reference. 

TS: Concerns regarding BT phone lines closing. 

Action NM: Enquire with LF/MP for update following communication in Sept 2023. 

8. 2024 Meeting Dates for Noting:

10am – 12pm, Wednesday 13 March 2024, Council Chamber 

2pm – 4pm, Wednesday 17 July 2024  

2pm – 4pm, Wednesday 13 November 2024 

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