On Sunday 20th September, our volunteers received a visit from Sally-Ann Hart, local Member of Parliament for Hastings and Rye.

As an independent rescue service which receives no charity support from government, our committee was contacted by Sally-Ann’s office after the Times / Sunday Times produced their Behind The Story documentary video. This video included segments from PLIRB volunteer and launch authority, Steve Hill as well as Sally-Ann in her role of local MP.

Although restrictions changed in the week before, the visit was able to go ahead thanks to good weather which meant everything could take place outside. With our volunteers already at the boathouse as a working team for our usual Sunday training and equipment checks, Sally-Ann was able to meet many of the team. There was plenty of time for a chat about the work we do and current issues we’re experiencing – especially in relation to the local coastline, environmental factors, and being able to fundraise or access funding support due to the pandemic and lockdown.

Sally-Ann acknowledged not just the work our volunteers are doing, but also the problems we’re facing, saying: “All our lifeboats, both RNLI and Independent, are vitally important to our coastal communities and it’s vital they get the funding they need. Pett Level Independent Rescue Boat is a local organisation, staffed solely by local volunteers who are passionate about saving lives – and they’re doing a fantastic job.”

Boathouse tour – and more

After a good chat, Sally-Ann was then shown around our base and boathouse by helm, launch authority and training officer, Darren. Sally-Ann was able to see the type of boats we have to support inshore and inland rescues. As part of the tour, Sally-Ann was also able to see why it is our rescue service needs specialist vehicles such as our Launch and Recovery vehicle which has to cope with the high shingle ridges as well as sandbars, hidden hazards and sinking mud.

With trainee numbers dwindling as current trainees qualify as crew, Darren was also able to chat with the MP about the role of our volunteers and of continued training for the crew. Collaborative work with other services, including support and incidents and in shared training, was also discussed, and Sally-Ann was glad to hear about our work with other services, agreeing that “collaboration between the RNLI and Independent rescue boats is vital in ensuring the safety of people visiting the area.”

Before leaving, Sally-Ann also spent time chatting to volunteer Barbara about her Bric-A-Brac charity shed, which is much loved and well supported by the local community. Usually, across a selling ‘season’ – from March to October – Barbara’s able to raise at least a quarter of our £10,000 running costs. This year, the combination of lockdown and being currently being unable to receive donations of items to sell, means income from the stall is significantly reduced.  

As a community and rescue charity which provides life-saving services and receives no charity support from government, we would like to thank Sally-Ann Hart for visiting. Our volunteers are glad to have welcomed our local MP to the boathouse, and appreciate having the opportunity to talk about the work we do and the challenges we (and many other local and national charities) currently face. As our launch vehicle volunteer and incoming chair, Kev, sums up:

“Along with lots of other charities this year, we’re struggling to raise funds to cover our operational costs so it’s heartening to know that Sally-Anne Hart recognises not only this problem but also appreciates the efforts of our volunteers in keeping visitors to the coast safe.

Sally-Ann’s visit highlights what Pett Level Independent Rescue Boat continues to do during these worrying times, and may hopefully help raise awareness of our charity’s work, of the costs involved in providing these life saving services and of the impact the pandemic has had on our ability to raise the money we desperately need so that we can continue provide these services.”

Whilst you’re here …

As an independent rescue service, we are run by volunteers and fundraise to buy all of our own equipment and to pay our considerable running costs. Since the pandemic began, these costs have risen to over £10,000 a year.

If you like the work we do and would like to support us, your donation would really be appreciated and would, ultimately, help us to help those in danger on our local coastline.

Thank you so much, from the volunteers at Pett Level Independent Rescue Boat.