ON THE GROUND: Time Banks

Scheme: Time Banks UK

Funding: Includes £50,000 a year over three years from the Active Community Unit

Objectives: To build up social capital and community networks

Less crime, lower rates of drugs prescribing, and the creation of social capital and trust are some of the positive benefits of the UK Time Bank movement, now three years old. Time Banks are a system of "mutual volunteering".

Volunteers exchange "time credits", or sometimes goods, such as recycled computers.

Befriending, gardening, maintenance and mental health are key areas covered by Time Banks. In one Time Bank project, based in a health centre in South East London, doctors prescribe a "friendly visit

rather than anti-depressants for older people living alone. In another scheme, in three London schools, 15-year-old pupils tutor younger pupils.

According to David Boyle, a founder member of the UK Time Bank movement, the scheme has real implications for public services. "This is not a barter scheme - instead it measures and rewards time. The very act of measuring people's time, even if they never spend their credits, makes them feel recognised, keeps them volunteering,

he says.

"There's a lot of rhetoric about participation in public services at the moment, but very little that actually means something,

he says.

"These types of schemes can be a way of involving clients as equal participants in areas such as regeneration, health and schools."

The first UK Time Bank was set up in Gloucestershire in 1999, and there are now more than 40 in the UK, mainly in inner city areas. Time Banks vary in size: some have a pool of 20-30 volunteers, others network together to provide a bank of up to 500 potential volunteers.

Volunteer's interests, skills, locations and availability are banked in a computer in the Time Bank office. Each office has a co-ordinator, who matches demand with the appropriate volunteer and logs their time credits. Volunteers receive regular "statements

detailing how many time credits they have earned.

Time Banks UK, which co-ordinates individual Time Banks in the UK, was set up in spring 2000 with an Active Community Unit grant of £50,000 a year over three years. Time Banks UK is jointly administered by the New Economics Foundation and Fair Shares, two charities working for social justice.

www.londontimebank.org.uk

www.timebanks.co.uk.

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