History and development

Homecall’s original home visiting scheme for the visually impaired in Hastings & St Leonards was the first such scheme to be established in the UK. By July 1985, six visitors had been recruited to visit eleven Clients. Using our model, similar schemes have since been set up in Cornwall, Northumberland and West Sussex.

By 1996, Homecall had established additional schemes in Bexhill and Rural Rother. In the year following, Homecall became the Southern Home Counties winner of the Whitbread/Home Office Volunteer Action Award.

In April 2000, East Sussex Social Services received additional central Government monies in the form of a two-year Promoting Independence Grant. It subsequently contracted with East Sussex Vision Care (ESVC) — a charitable consortium comprising East Sussex Association for the Blind, Hastings & Rother Voluntary Association for the Blind and Eastbourne Blind Society — to provide a home visiting service throughout East Sussex. In turn, ESVC contracted with Homecall to deliver the service, known as the Independent Living Scheme.

The Promoting Independence Grant, which expired in March 2002, enabled Homecall to expand its pioneering home visiting schemes for the visually impaired throughout the county from its established areas in Hastings & St Leonards, Rural Rother and Bexhill to Eastbourne (Sep 2000), Ouse Valley (Nov 2000), South Wealden (Oct 2000) and North Wealden (Oct 2000).

Subsequent to that, East Sussex Vision Care funded Homecall on an annual, renewable basis until the contract expired at the end of September 2006, when Homecall, once again, become self-funding. Plans for future development included a scheme to build a bank of volunteers to offer a service to accompany Clients to appointments and activities and offer a one-off or time limited service to Clients who need specific short term help and to offer an increased service when a Client's carer was away or indisposed. We are also planning to extend the service to include Clients living in residential care who would benefit from the service.

Homecall was awarded ‘The Queen’s Award for Voluntary Service’ on June 2nd 2006 when the charity was deemed worthy of special recognition, making 2006 a bittersweet year. This is a very special accolade, which we hope will support our applications for funding to help us to continue the good work.

In April 2008 it was with great regret that Trustees of Homecall announced that the countywide scheme would close in six months time as insufficient funding had been identified to enable the charity to continue. At this point, with great determination, the Bexhill area of the countywide scheme launched a fundraising campaign supported by the local Observer newspaper. Over a number of weeks the campaign gathered momentum and captured the imagination of the town. With tremendous support from the Bexhill Observer, local businesses, organisations, clubs and individuals enough money was raised locally to enable Homecall to continue in Bexhill when all other areas closed on 30th September.

A year on, September 2009, Homecall continues to thrive in Bexhill. It is by no means easy to identify adequate funding but with continuing local support Homecall is now on a reasonably sound footing and is working towards establishing a guaranteed service to Blind and Partially Sighted residents of Bexhill and the surrounding area.

By April 2011, Homecall is one of only a very few true local Bexhill charities. The now well established and hardworking board of Trustees are joined by the retiring Scheme Manager. Having benefited from the closure of another Bexhill Charity, Bexhill Friends of the Elderly, and with the continued support of those within our town, Homecall looks forward to a less turbulent future.

The replacement Scheme Manager's role is to ensure that Homecall continues to support Blind and Partially Sighted residents living in the area and to make sure that there are adequate ongoing funds in order to enable Homecall to continue to support Bexhill’s visually impaired residents for many years to come. The Homecall service is now fully established in Bexhill working alongside other local groups and agencies to ensure that visually impaired residents receive the best possible support at all times. Homecall’s annual calendar of fundraising events continues to provide much needed funds. Its popular, regular events are attended by Clients, volunteers and supporters as well as the general public.


A paid part-time Scheme Manager, who recruits volunteer visitors and then ‘matches’ them with blind and partially sighted Clients, manages the area. The Scheme Manager is accountable to the Homecall Trustees, a majority of whom are either visitors or Clients.


British Empire Medal — 2012

Jenny being presented with her British Empire Medal by The Lord Lieutenant of East Sussex, Mr Peter Field, who was the Queen's representative that day.

In the 2012 Queen's Birthday Honours list Jenny Private, the retired Scheme Manager and now Trustee for Homecall, was awarded the British Empire Medal for her 'Services to the Visually Impaired'.

Jenny says she feels very honoured to be considered worthy of this award and that it was totally unexpected but very special in this Diamond Jubilee year.

The investiture took place at The Royal Pavilion, Brighton on 2nd October.

In recognition of this award Jenny was elected as President of Homecall at the 2012 Annual General Meeting.

Jenny with Mrs Amanda Hamblin (Homecall Patron)

Jenny bows out — 2011

A packed house was assembled at Cooden Sports and Social Club on Thursday (31st March) in order to spring a surprise farewell party on an unsuspecting Jenny.

Jenny walked through the doors to be greeted by loud cheers from volunteers and Clients alike, who wanted to thank her for all her past work and wish her well in her future retirement.

The room was decorated with streamers, retirement banners and numerous balloons and each table was delightfully festooned with fresh-cut flowers.

Jenny had pride of place at the top table and was joined by Amanda Hamblin (Patron of Homecall), Robert Hooker (Trustee and Chair), Maureen Daley (incoming Scheme Manager) and John Dowling (former Editor of the Bexhill Observer).

Speeches were made thanking Jenny for her outstanding work for Homecall and confirming that its very existence today is a testament to her tenacity and strength of purpose. A beautiful fragrant bouquet was presented to Jenny, the toast was made and the party began.

The excellent buffet was open, old friends chatted, new friends were made. The specially made cake was cut by Jenny (but enjoyed by all), the raffle was drawn.

The party was over, goodbyes were said, best wishes were expressed as everyone wished Jenny the very best for her retirement.

Garden Party at Buckingham Palace — 2010

As Scheme Manager for Homecall, I was thrilled to receive an invitation from Her Majesty The Queen to attend a Garden Party at Buckingham Palace earlier this year. Homecall received The Queen's Award for Voluntary Service in 2006 and following the troubled times when the charity was threatened with closure in 2008 it is wonderful that this year Homecall is able to celebrate it's 25th Anniversary.

I have looked after the Bexhill scheme now for some 10 years and felt privileged indeed to be invited to represent the charity at such a prestigious event. The Garden Party was held on Thursday, July 22nd, and I was accompanied by my husband, Roger.

The weather threatened rain but it was, in fact, mostly sunny and dry and we enjoyed the afternoon immensely. Afternoon tea was delicious and with 8000 people attending it was a fashion show to behold.

It was very interesting to meet people who have done so much good in their lives all able to enjoy the ambience of their sovereign's residence.

Jenny Private

Jenny with her husband, Roger

25th Anniversary Report — 2010

Homecall, one of Bexhill's best-loved and vital charities, celebrated it's 25th Anniversary with a special lunch reception at Cooden Beach Sports and Social Club on Thursday 4th March 2010. More than 100 guests attended, including the Lord Lieutenant of East Sussex Mr Peter Field and Mrs Field, Bexhill Town Mayor Bridget George, Homecall's Patron Amanda Hamblin, Vice-President's Peggy Walke and John Dowling, Homecall Chairman Robert Hooker along with all Homecall Trustees and the Scheme Manager Jenny Private. Other guests included many of Homecall's visually impaired Clients, Volunteer Visitors and representatives of businesses, organisations, associations, clubs and individuals who have supported Homecall financially or in kind in the past three years since the charity became self funding. The Lord Lieutenant praised the charity and said it was his priviledge to be present to represent Her Majesty the Queen at such a wonderful occasion, adding that the support given to blind and partially sighted people is vital to the fabric of our community.
Our very grateful thanks to everyone who helped make this occasion such a memorable event in Homecall's history.

The Lord Lieutenant of East Sussex, Mr Peter Field with Vice President of Homecall, Mrs Peggy Walke (centre) and Scheme Manager Jenny Private

Volunteer of the Year Award — 2007

Betty Simpson, a Volunteer Visitor for Homecall for 14 years, was voted "Volunteer of the Year" at the Bexhill Achievers Award 2007 held at The De La Warr Pavilion on Tuesday evening the 4th September. This follows the award to Homecall of "Charity of the Year" in 2006.

Betty has been a dedicated Volunteer Visitor, during her 14 years she has supported several visually impaired people helping them cope with the difficulties of sight loss. She is always cheerful and kind and her support is always much appreciated. Her voluntary work doesn't stop there however! For more than 30 years from 1963 Betty supported 2nd Bexhill Scouts and for most of this time she was their secretary. For the last 35 years at least Betty has also supported both the RNLI and the Royal British Legion, in her well-earned position, collecting outside the HSBC on the corner of Western Road and Devonshire Road. St Michaels Hospice have also benefited from her support where, for the last 4½ years, Betty has volunteered at the Pine Tree restaurant in St Leonard's Road. Betty last year embarked on new voluntary work. In memory of her brother who was a Spitfire Pilot she is now supporting RAFA on their flag days too.

Homecall salutes you Betty!
Your award recognises your wonderful support to the people of Bexhill.

Bexhill Charity of the Year Award — 2006

Homecall was awarded ‘Charity of the Year’ in Bexhill at the Bexhill Achievers Awards held at St Richards School on September 21st 2006. This prestigious event organised by the Bexhill Observer and Bexhill Chamber of Commerce is held annually to recognise organisations and individuals who have excelled in their field.

Homecall was flattered to be nominated and thrilled that the judges deemed it appropriate to acknowledge our worth to the local community.

Homecall was also one of several charities to be nominated to benefit from the proceeds of the event and a cheque for £690 was presented to the charity at an event held at the De la Warr Pavilion in January 2007.