Case Study: Timebank South West

Timebank South West


Imagine a society where you were rewarded for helping people? Where your time spent keeping someone company; reading a story or making a cup of tea was remunerated? Welcome to the world of Timebank.

Timebank South West: where time is valued more than money

Imagine a society where you were rewarded for helping people? Where your time spent keeping someone company; reading a story or making a cup of tea was remunerated? Imagine if everyone’s time was valued equally so that gardening was worth the same time was equal to an accountant and a painter valued as much as a pianist. Welcome to the world of Timebank.

timebank-logo.jpg#asset:259

Timebank South West’s Director, Liza Packer says, the only currency is time;

"Every time someone helps someone else they earn an hour or two hours ‘time credit’. It doesn’t matter what skills people are offering; anybody can be involved."

There are now more than 500 people in Plymouth on the Timebank books offering either one-to-one support or group skills share, from gardening, crafting to basic home-improvements with people choosing when it is convenient for them to participate. Part of the project’s success is due to this flexibility for people to dip in and out of it as it suits them.

Timebank was set up in Plymouth in 2011 as a pilot project in four neighbourhoods:  St Budeaux, Stonehouse, Barne Barton & Whitleigh. Such was its success that there are now seven Timebanks across the city and it is on its way to becoming one big happy city-wide family with neighbours helping neighbours and neighbourhoods helping neighbourhoods. Individuals are matched to ensure that someone with the appropriate skills can be partnered with someone who has a need for something (which could be companionship) or a job to be completed.

The principal aim of Timebank South West is to bring people together; creating relationships and establishing social networks where people live. Regular, weekly get togethers are imperative to the Timebank program, providing companionship and enabling people to foster new relationships;

“What we do is create social networks, be that big or small. Over time those relationships build and grow and people begin to recognise that they are part of a community and that there are lots of resources within the community that can support them.  Knowing that someone has a social network they can turn to can really make a difference to someone’s mental health and physical improvement.”

It’s a fact: Timebank has made a significant difference to the health and wellbeing of many of its participants, particularly to those with mental health problems and learning difficulties. Such is the high regard for the project and its transformational ability that Timebanks have been set up within organisations, run by – and for - members of staff, service users, their friends and families. For example there are organisational Timebanks within Pride in Plymouth and MegaReach.

Timebank South West is launching a new project this year to support people with long-term conditions. Being diagnosed with a long-term health condition such as diabetes, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease or arthritis can be a challenging time for the person concerned. People often learn about their condition in a short GP appointment and are left with a prescription and a series of questions.

Timebank South West’s Project Manager Alan Butler is working with Plymouth GP Dr Ed Parry-Jones, Plymouth City Council and MegaReach to train Timebank volunteers and medical students to:

  • Support people with a new or existing long-term condition to become ‘orientated’ to their condition.
  • Ensure they are supported in learning about and managing their condition
  • Ensure that people with a long-term condition are able to enjoy a good quality of life and have the opportunity to become part of the Timebank community

We have set up a unique support system so that people who have recently been diagnosed with a long-term condition and give them continuity. The volunteers will help them set goals to manage their conditions and, then, will support them to achieve these goals. This could be going with them to hospital appointments; taking them to keep fit classes or a gym or going with them to a social club or support group." 

Crucially, says Liza there is one significant psychological difference;

"Because it’s a Timebank project, people will know they have to ‘pay back’ their time.  That means they know they are valued, that they have something to offer and something meaningful to give. This sense of ‘worth’ cannot be underestimated."

If you’d like to be part of Timebank South West and/or its Long-term Conditions Project contact Liza at liza@timebanksw.org or phone 01752 875930.