Volunteer reward model already a success in the Welsh valleys

Adam Bannister

A charity in one of the UK's most deprived areas has come out in support of the Government's plans to reward young people for volunteering, claiming it has been doing exactly that for more than two years and has found that it brings positive results.

Valley Kids, a charity that works with disadvantaged young people in the south Wales valleys, is currently expanding its initiative, in which volunteers are rewarded for the time they contribute.

In return for work such as mentoring younger children, gardening, picking up litter and taking part in education programmes about issues including drugs and bullying, participants have received incentive rewards such as driving lessons, recycled computers, even trips abroad.

Volunteers in Dinas, a village in the Vale of Glamorgan, have been enjoying these so-called 'time credits' for two and a half years, thanks to the involvement of the Wales Institute for Community Currencies and Time Banks UK, a charity that first pioneered the concept in the UK in 1998.

One project in Dinas saw young volunteers paint a mural on the wall of the local train station, to go alongside a noticeboard carrying the station's history. Now the scheme is set to start in Rhydyfelin.

The initiatives are similar to those promoted in the Government's recent Green Paper, Youth Matters, which outlined plans for an 'opportunity card'.

The card works like a retail store card - points are accrued when volunteer work is carried out.

Louise Bennett, development officer at Valley Kids, said: "There has been a small increase in the number of volunteers, but what is even more noticeable is that existing volunteers are increasing the number of hours they are putting in."

The YMCA recently voiced misgivings (Third Sector, 27 July) about the capacity of smaller charities to offer reward schemes such as time banking.

However, Becky Booth, a community development worker for the Wales Institute for Community Currencies, said she had not seen minor charities marginalised.

"We've worked with small charities with minimal grants that have managed to raise the money," she said. "I can see the potential concern, but we've not encountered any problems."

Booth sees the Government's proposals for incentivising volunteering as vindication of Time Banks UK's work. "It's nice to see it in print," she said. "For us, it's a policy agenda that backs up what we've been doing."

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