The service was officially launched (as Hastings & 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.
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 which allowed Rose Webster to join as part-time Co-ordinator
When this grant ended, in 2001, funding was secured for a part-time Service Manager and Janet Beale (who is now our C0-Chair of Trustees) joined the team. In October of the same year, the service was awarded a Hastings Civic Pride Award in recognition of our work.
In April 2004 a new Service Manager, Dave Burke, joined the service and with funding from PULSE the minimum age range was dropped from 18 years to 16 years. In June 2005 the service moved to more appropriate premises in Cambridge Gardens in Hastings, with 28 counsellors, and continues to grow within the same building to this day.
In 2007 the first Anger Management Group took place and continues to support local residents who recognise that anger issues are having a negative impact on their lives.
By 2008, the service had grown to include 32 professional and effective counsellors on a voluntary basis and to continue the original ethos.
In August 2012 the name was changed to Counselling Plus to reflect the wider geographical area covered as the service had expanded to Eastbourne as well as Hastings & Rother – unfortunately, the Eastbourne service closed in September 2015 due to lack of local funds which raised a risk to the original service.
Verra Papaspyrou joined the service in November 2013, after the previous manager’s retirement. Verra is the current Chief Executive Officer having had her own placement with the service whilst training to be a counsellor in 2002. The service has continued to become more professional and able to respond to the changing needs of the sector.
The service continues to support those who are least able to access private counselling to address issues affecting their lives, however additional funding now allows the majority of counsellors to work with further clients on a funded basis as well as their voluntary clients. Our strong and established team of Trustees, staff and Counsellors are all committed to continuing the original ethos of the service whilst recognising the rising impact on the sector and need to develop systems to ensure sustainability. With this in mind, the service now offers a small number of self-funded sessions to those local residents who do not wish to access private counselling.
2020 forced additional issues on the service as the impact and limitations of COVID-19 hit the world but not a single day of counselling was lost and the magnificent team of counsellors and admin support team were able to change to remote counselling overnight.
2022 will mark the 30th anniversary of the service.