Posted: 2 December 2016
Our CEO Sharon Allen shares her experience of visiting a timebank in Cambridge.
When I was invited to a meeting at CHS HQ to discuss timebanking, I was curious as although it is a concept had some familiarity with, I was wondering what the connection was to housing and social care which is my day job.
For those unfamiliar with timebanking, it’s a pretty straightforward concept – you join a timebanking scheme and when you do a task that helps someone else then you can bank an hour of time that you can then use when you want to ask another member of a scheme to do some work for you. So for example, it could be ringing up a socially isolated older person for a chat and then using the hour banked to ask another member of the scheme to put up a shelf for you.
CHS is working with timebanks across the county and colleagues at Cambridgeshire County Council to develop networks that include many CHS tenants and the invite was to meet with all of them to hear how the scheme is working, and most importantly what impact it is having. As I listened, it struck me that this is exactly the sort of positive partnership working between different organisations that I love to see, systems leadership in action.
I was really impressed to be given a thick booklet showing how timebankers could swap their hours for Time Credits giving free entry to local leisure and cultural services, which fits perfectly into the national drive to encourage us all to be more active. This is possible thanks to local collaboration between the Timebanks and Spice – the social enterprise who run Time Credits.
The reality is that timebanking does depend on having really good coordinators who keep an eye on the hours racking up in the virtual bank and, more importantly, expand the networks so people with a vast array of skills, including those who perhaps do not recognise the skills they have, who are ready to offer their services when needed.
One of the timebank members has just moved into the area and joining up led to her meeting new people helping her deal with some health issues. One of the interesting by-products of the timebank is members blogging – pastconnect.blogspot.co.uk – and sharing their life experiences, including one woman who was born six years after the start of the First World War who is a classic example of a silver surfer using the web to engage with her community.
The penny really dropped when we were joined by a timebank member - and CHS tenant - who has also battled serious health issues that had left her feeling socially isolated. She’d heard about the timebank so thought she’d give it a go and went along to a session at a local church run kitchen that offers timebank credits to volunteers.
The volunteers there welcomed her with open arms offering her an opportunity to use her skills to work in the kitchen to start earning credits. Now that woman is managing two sessions a week which has completely changed her life.
Aside from the courage it took to make that first step she told us that her use of medication had reduced and she is making far fewer visits to her GP. Yes, we can quantify how much money that might save although I was more impressed when she said ‘I can sleep at night and who can put a price on that?’
So whilst we need to see timebanking as something that might have some cost savings attached, it’s also vital to recognise that people helping each other because they want to also produces less tangible - and very powerful - results around social cohesion and inclusion which are in my view priceless.