Our service was officially launched (as Rother Counselling) in 1992 to provide a counselling service to adults on low income.
The service was started by a dedicated and determined group of volunteer counsellors and their tutor in response to obvious local needs. Some of the founding members are still involved.
With few resources, no premises or paid employees, all administrative tasks were done from home by volunteers most of whom were also counsellors. Counselling took place in shared or borrowed premises. For six years the service continued in this fashion obtaining short term, modest grants to cover minimal expenses and running costs.
In March 1998 the service was successful in obtaining a National Lottery Charities Board grant to cover three years’ operating expenses, renting and equipping premises in St Leonards and a salary for a part-time Co-ordinator and Rose Webster joined and still remains with the service.
When this grant ended, in 2001, we secured funding for a part-time Service Manager, Janet Beale (who is now our Chair of Trustees) and a Co-ordinator for three years from the Hastings and St Leonards Primary Care Trust. In October of the same year, the service was awarded a Hastings Civic Pride Award in recognition of our work.
In April 2003 we obtained funding from Bexhill & Rother PCT to enable us to offer short term counselling to clients referred by GPs.
In April 2004 a new Service Manager, Dave Burke, joined us and with funding from PULSE we dropped the minimum age of clients from 18 years to 16 years. In June 2005 we moved to more appropriate premises in Cambridge Gardens in Hastings, with 28 counsellors.
In 2007 with increased funding from the PCT, we employed a part-time Project Worker (Catherine Scott, who unfortunately resigned because of ill health) and also a part-time Administrator, Lorraine Berwick. We also started our first Anger Management Group.
By 2008 we had expanded to 32 counsellors and started delivering Options jointly with the Mental Health Team as well as a Women’s Only Anger Management group. Patricia Dawes stood down as Chair after 10 successful years and Janet Beale was elected in her place.
Closer working relationships with the NHS were established and our Service Manager was invited by the Sussex Partnership Trust (the local mental health body) to sit on the Mental Health in Primary Care Strategy Steering Group.
In 2009 Alison Rickard joined the service as a part-time Assistant Manager, to help with funding applications and project work. Also in 2009 Jonathon Crozier was employed as an administrator to share reception duties with Rose.
In 2010 we received Big Lottery funding to improve our IT systems and to create our website.
Clients issues presented have covered a wide range of human experiences including depression, difficulties with relationships, sex, family, loss, dealing with anger and unresolved traumatic experiences. Counsellors are mainly trained in the Person Centred and other Humanistic approaches and they usually see three clients weekly either in Hastings or at premises in Rye, Northiam or Bexhill.
In August 2012 we became Counselling Plus to reflect the wider geographical area we cover as the service had now expanded to Eastbourne as well as Hastings & Rother (unfortunately, the Eastbourne service closed in September 2015 due to lack of local funds).
The Admin team is now Laura Smith and Rose Webster (who continues in her role as co-ordinator) and Joanna Pirver. Additionally, Jacki Higgs is now the Deputy Manager. The team was joined by Verra Papaspyrou in December 2013, who is the current Service Manager having had her own placement with the service whilst training to be a counsellor in 2002.
The service continues to support those who are least able to access private counselling to address issues affecting their lives.