KEY FACTS

  • Holding organisation: Rushey Green Time Bank (RGTB)
  • Status: Registered Charity No. 1101616
  • Financing: Consultancy/training,donations,members' fundraising, some grants for projects
  • People involved in the project: Staff and members
  • Public Partners: People involved in the project
  • Private partners: Various stakeholders
  • Creation Date: 1999
  • Contact Persons: www.rgtb.org.uk
  • Main project links: Philippe Granger - philippe at rgtb.org.uk

The idea

RGTB is unique in that it is established in the local healthcare setting of the Rushey Green General Practice surgery in Catford, South East London. Time Banks provide an alternative currency - time; not money. For every hour you spend helping someone, you are entitled to an hour's help in return. It's about neighbours helping neighbours. Help can be in many forms - performing practical tasks, befriending someone, running errands, sharing food grown in the garden, etc. In 2008, RGTB won an award from the London Health Commission for ‘Outstanding achievements in partnership with the NHS – activities that bring communities together to work with NHS staff to improve health and well-being’. It also won the City of London Sustainable City Award for ‘Access to goods and services for disadvantaged communities.’

In today's society people are becoming increasingly isolated. As the population rises and our cities expand, many of us are losing our sense of community. It is for this reason that RGTB was set up: to re-energise people to recreate the "village" feel that the urban society has lost. The mission is to empower the residents of Catford (including but not exclusively the patients of the Rushey Green GP) to improve their own health and sense of well-being, and thus improve the health of the Catford community as a whole.

By the principles of co-production, valuing people and recognising them as assets, RGTB is commited to increasing the 'core economy', those aspects of family and community that through reciprocity, equity, trust, love and care for each other generate wellbeing to sustain the human family and community spirit.

The local context

The time bank began in 1999, in Lewisham, as a pilot project instigated by Dr Byng who was convinced that increasing patients' contact with other people could help with symptoms of depression and isolation. He felt that that an alternative resource was needed to alleviate their isolation – they needed friends, contacts and a chance to share their skills and be valued. He also hoped to find a framework in which they could feel useful to society and needed by others.

The time bank thus seeks to alleviate isolation and raise wellbeing in an area of social and health (physical, psychological) need, where life expectancy is currently 74.5 years, which is lower than the London average and where premature mortality is higher than the national average with cardiovascular disease being prevalent. Over 11% of the population in Rushey Green is over 65 years of age, an age where isolation and subsequent depression is more prevalent. Lewisham is also one of the most deprived parts of the country, being the 29th most employment-deprived district, and the 31st most economically deprived district, out of 354 in England and Wales.

The starting point

The project took off from the idea to involve patients in their own wellbeing through a Time Bank in a health centre, which first arose from a seminar attended by doctors at the Rushey Green medical practice where they discovered the Time Dollar concept of Edgar Cahn. The first members were recruited by talking to patients in the waiting room and together these members worked on "reviving" the garden in front of the practice, as well as helping each other with various daily tasks.

In April 2003, the pilot project, where the RGTB had been funded and managed by the New Economics Foundation, came to an end. Management of the project was handed over to the staff, and a Steering Group was formed consisting of time bank members and the Rushey Green Group Practice. In 2004, RGTB became a registered charity and the Steering Group, a Board of Trustees.

How does it work today?

Central to RGTB's ethos is that members play an essential role in the running of the time bank. By using the skills and time of its members as its main resource, the time bank is an empowering and sustainable "tool" for strengthening and rebuilding the community through its members who coproduce it.

Time bank exchanges are recorded with time, there's no money involved. In the time bank, each person's time "credits" are credited to their "account". People can then withdraw time from their account when they would like help with something themselves. These transactions are done via a co-ordinator / broker who keeps all the accounts and matches people who want help, with someone who can help them. When the task is complete, the accounts will have a record of the number of hours traded by each person.

Participation and Governance

MEMBERS: The time bank has 200 members with 44% from black and minority ethnic communities, which is a fair reflection of the local community. The time bank is made of 76% women and 24% men. In recent months, younger adults have joined the time bank.

STAFF: Subject to funding, paid staff at the time bank include a Development Manager and a Broker. Members play an essential role in the running of the time bank. For example: recruiting new members; talking to external organisations about time banking; organising projects; organising social events and group activities; helping produce the newsletter, helping run the time bank office, as well as providing services for each other.

MANAGEMENT: A Board of Trustees is made up of time bank members, a doctor from the Rushey Green Group Practice, and other professionals. The Board meets every six weeks to monitor the work of the time bank and to make recommendations on planning and strategy.

FUNDING: Since it's inception the time bank has previoulsy received funding from various sources for different projects : The Kings Fund, The Big Lottery Fund, the Lewisham Primary Care Trust, Lloyds TSB Foundation, London Catalyst, The City Bridge Trust, The Merchant Taylors Company, The South London and Maudsley NHS Foundation Trust (SLaM).

It is not core funded but currently has funding from the Lewisham NHS to develop the Lewisham Time Bank network and from Lewisham Council to develop community hubs functioning as neighbourhood time banks.

Added value of the project and making resources available

RGTB aims to use the skills of its members as its main resource - it's a circle of giving and receiving. The activities of the time bank stem from the needs and wishes of the members who are encouraged to take ownership to make it all happen by using their time and skills (housework, clearance/decluttering, simple DIY, gardening, befriending, escorting to shops, admin and ITC help, shopping, help with CVs,).

By helping and supporting each other, members re-build trust, improve self-esteem and confidence, learn new skills, and alleviate isolation. This might be through a one-to-one exchange, taking part in group activities (coffee mornings, the 'drop in', the poetry group, chair-based exercises, quilting group) or being involved in the civic affairs of the local community. The activities are fully inclusive and include people who have physical and or learning difficulties. With time banking, anybody can join regardless of age, ethnicity, etc.

Challenges

  • Core funding to keep going is becoming extremely difficult to secure while yet the demand for the time bank keeps growing. It is having to diversify its income generation streams and become less dependent on funding. This is a major challenge and occupies time that could otherwise be use to concentrate on the core activities of the time bank and its people. Members are involved as much as possible to help fundraise and the time bank also provides training, workshops and talks to bring some income in. Members also fulfill some of the admin functions to make the time bank less staff dependent.
  • Misunderstandings about time banking and clarifying the difference with the traditional forms of volunteering: members help by explaining the difference the time bank has made to their life through the reciprocity and coproduction core aspects of time banking that makes it different to one-way volunteering.
  • Red tape: a constant and growing assault of time consuming paper work. However, digitalising things as much as possible can make things lighter, simler and faster.
  • Risk averse postures from statutory sectors and having to constantly re-assure them that time banking is safe and that there are systems and procedures in place for Safeguarding purposes.
  • Lack of space to cater for all activities: solution is to collaborate with others who have space and offer something to them in reciprocity.

Future perspective

Through the involvement of time bank members in all areas of the work of the time bank, it is hoped to build sustainability into the operation of the organisation. In addition to grant funding one to consider alternative ways of raising income such as building relationships with individual supporters and donors, develop corporate relationships and some income generation activities like training and consultancy. The time bank can be a resource to other groups and agencies wishing to set up a time bank.

In the arena of Adult Social Care that is facing significant challenges and where prevention is going to be key to ensure people stay well and independent as long as possible, RGTB is developing a network of people supporting each other through a time banking initiative of neighbourly community 'hubs' operating from Health Centres and community spaces, connecting people to people, and people to groups that run social activities across Lewisham. A key aspect of the programme will be networking/exchange online software, enabling participants and organisations collaborating in the programme to post their offers and requests, share news and ideas, and promote events.

Proposals for change

  • Don't necessarily set up new time banks as stand alone organisations - try set up 'time banking' principles in existing organisations and groups, thus utilising existing staff, resources and infrastructure.
  • Coproduction - Involve your nembers from day one by earning time credits for running the time bank.
  • Collaborate with other groups to share resources and space, using time banking principles of service exchanges, and work for each other.
  • Set up monitoring and evaluation systems to capture valuable information to validate your work. Collect stories and photos
  • Use your members to tell their story of how the time bank has changed their life
  • Network with statutory organisations to generate positive relationships, promoting time banking in a relevant way and as a cost effective solution to meet their need and how we can help each other .
  • Don't rely on staff only to run your project. The greatest resource of the time bank is its people - the members!
  • Keep things simple, accessible and minimise paperwork

Other valuable projects

Sources and links

  • See here for a collection of short clips illustrating some of the activities of the Time Bank.
  • Another video of the Time Bank in action.
  • For a further selection of RGTB videos, go here.