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Castlemilk Timebank 

Castlemilk Timebank provides support for people to come together within their community and a means for local interest groups to share skills and talents in a mutually beneficial way.

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What are the aims and objectives?

Castlemilk Timebank aims to promote community involvement and to rebuild a sense of community spirit in the Castlemilk area of Glasgow. The Timebank supports people to exchange skills, services and support. One hour of a participants’ time will give this participant one hour of someone else’s. Essentially, the project turns spare time into shared time.

Timebanking is a recognised mechanism for building community spirit through the exchange of services, skills and support between neighbours and within the community and is run by members of the community themselves. This approach encourages volunteering, enables people to create their own self help networks, reduces isolation and encourages a cohesive community.

Why was the project set up? Has the approach changed over time?

Castlemilk Timebank was established by the Castlemilk Economic Development Agency (CEDA) after learning about the work and approach taken by other timebanks. A feasibility study in 2001 confirmed that the residents of Castlemilk were supportive of a timebank in the area. A steering group, made up of people who live and work in the local area, was set up to oversee and be accountable for the project and a project co-ordinator was appointed. Following a pilot study and together with CEDA, the steering group successfully applied and secured funding. The Timebank has been funded by the BIG Lottery since 2002 and currently has funding until October 2013.

Since its establishment Castlemilk Timebank has built strong links with a range of organisations in the wider community and the Timebank continues to evolve and grow in Castlemilk.

“Being part of something empowers people.”

Through the work of the Timebank and interests of local people, a number of additional groups have been established. Although not directly part of the Timebank, these groups bring people together and facilitate the development of new skills and interests such as floristry, crafting and jewellery making. Members of the groups take a peer mentoring approach, with more experienced members of the group supporting and working alongside newer members.

Who are the participants and the partners?

Taking a whole community approach, the Timebank works with and for the people of Castlemilk, a large housing estate on the outskirts of Glasgow. Castlemilk is associated with social and economic exclusion. As both a cause and a symptom of exclusion, many residents suffer from social isolation resulting from a lack of close ties or support within the community. This isolation can have very negative effects on the confidence and self esteem of individuals, in particular on young people from vulnerable groups.

As at October 2011, the total membership of the Timebank was 282. Volunteers include people with mental ill health, those who are retired, lone parents and those who have been affected by domestic abuse. The Timebank has on average approximately 30 people actively exchanging skills on regular basis, with a small group of others participating as time and skills allow. The Timebank also links with over 60 organisations and local businesses.

People become involved with the Timebank predominately through word of mouth from other volunteers and through self referral. The Timebank also receives referrals from a number of sources including local care homes and local mental health projects.

The Timebank’s management committee is made up entirely of Castlemilk residents.  The project works in partnership with a number of agencies in the area including the Domestic Violence Unit, Working Links and the Scottish Association for Mental Health (SAMH). The Timebank employs three staff – a full time co-ordinator and two part time admin assistants.

“It is a project run by the community for the community.”

The project also exchanges skills and support with other local businesses in Castlemilk, including administration and office support, photocopying and supporting local community events. In one case, a business exchange led to the full time employment of a Timebank volunteer.

Castlemilk Timebank is the only timebank operating in the south east of Glasgow. It has an established reputation for delivering accessible and responsive services to a wide range of individuals and groups in the area via community participation and involvement.

What does the project do?

Castlemilk Timebank aims to increase the involvement of people of all ages within their communities. The Timebank provides support for people to come together within their community and a means for local interest groups to share skills and talents in a mutually beneficial way.

The Timebank use people’s time as a currency, where everyone’s time is of equal value irrespective of the skills that they offer. Credits (in time) are earned by volunteering. The time one person spends helping another is added up and the time credit can then be exchanged when a service is required from someone else. Through the work of the Timebank, individuals gain skills, and this in turn increases the projects skills base and range of skills within the community.

The skills that current members offer are varied. Exchanges include ironing, gardening, dog walking, shopping, Reiki, attending local meetings, picking up prescriptions, transport, hanging curtains, cleaning and befriending. As of October 2011 the total number of hours exchanged was 2,665.

Alongside the day-to-day work of the Timebank, a collaboration with the Scottish Prison Service was established four years ago. Within the prison project, prisoners volunteer their time to assist other prisoners. The initiative helps to recognise and reward the volunteering that prisoners undertake to contribute to the prison's community life. However, instead of the prisoners spending the credits they have earned on accessing services for themselves, they donate them to a participating timebank for their own family and others in the community to benefit from. Eight prisons across Scotland are currently involved with the Timebank project.

The Timebank also works with the local community and hosts a number of community events throughout the year. These include two family events, a Christmas Festival and a free Family Fun Day in June. The Timebank’s volunteers fundraise throughout the year to provide these community events.

“Local people working with and for local people.”

Castlemilk Timebank is unique as no other organisation in the area provides non-structured volunteering opportunities in the form of 'soft' skills exchanges. Due to the efforts of the volunteers and the committee, Castlemilk Timebank was awarded the Evening Times Community Spirit Award in 2007. The project has also received the prestigious Queen’s Award for Voluntary Service 2008 (the equivalent of an MBE for voluntary groups), and a number of awards for the work of individual volunteers. Through the work with the Scottish Prison Service, the project has been awarded the Butler Award.

In what way is the approach ‘asset based’? 

Castlemilk Timebank provides support for people to play a fuller, more active part in their community. The approach taken by the Timebank is based on the belief that everyone has something to offer and a contribution to make and sees people as the answer. As individuals offer their services and skills, they may feel more useful and valuable and more included in community life. People volunteer their soft skills meaning that there are no skills barriers to people participating in the project. Therefore, the work of the Timebank directly promotes and encourages social inclusion and community connections.

Castlemilk Timebank is successful in attracting people who may not usually get involved in traditional volunteering. The Timebank offers a flexible, two-way (both giving and receiving) alternative which fits in with people’s lives. Many participants feel they are improving their neighbourhoods for the common good by building reciprocity and trust and by bringing down the barriers between people, including those with health issues. The Timebank enables people to create their own self help networks, reduces isolation and encourages a cohesive community.

“It re-connects people with the community.”

The project utilises the existing skills and abilities of volunteers to place them in suitable voluntary positions and supports them to develop their potential. Furthermore, it helps people to identify and focus on the assets and strengths within themselves and their communities by enhancing their skills for resilience, relationships, knowledge, confidence and self esteem.

How has success been measured?

A specialist computer system called ‘Timekeeper’ records all skills exchanged and an evaluation sheet is issued to each volunteer on completion of the exchange. Reports are generated on a monthly basis to keep track of skills exchanges, volunteer involvement, numbers of new members, training provided and finance details.

The progress of each individual volunteer is evaluated on a one-to-one basis via an informal interview on an annual basis. Progress is monitored and measured based on each individual volunteer’s circumstances including the number of social interactions in a set period and the number of skills exchanges participated in.

Following their involvement in project training courses, volunteers complete an evaluation form to allow them to comment on various aspects of the course e.g. the information provided, the trainer, and the training facility. The project also holds a number of internal informal events each year with volunteers. These events are aimed at bringing the volunteers together to exchange experiences of volunteering with the Community Timebank. This event is also an opportunity to undertake a face-to-face evaluation with volunteers of the wide work of the Timebank. A survey questionnaire is sent to those who cannot attend the event.

What are the strengths and challenges? 

Castlemilk Timebank harnesses the skills and time of the people in the area for the benefit of the wider community. The Timebank offers a unique and practical way to help people develop the mutual networks of support that underpin healthy communities. It encourages the creation of relationships, activity, networks and support that builds community.

The Timebank is a community based initiative that uses time as a unit of local currency and allows people to come together and help each other. It provides a flexible approach to volunteering, with participant’s contributing on their own terms and in response to their own circumstances. The less structured nature of the approach and the focus on softer skills attracts many people who would not usually volunteer.

Consultations and service review with volunteers have indicated that the inclusiveness, safety, reliability, ease of access to services and the ability to respond to a range of user demands are key strengths of the Castlemilk Timebank. The approach ensures an effective and flexible system of involving the local community in skills exchanges and 'soft' volunteering.

The Timebank relies on volunteers to deliver the project and it is recognised that many volunteers are doing more than is required. Timebank staff highlighted the need to revisit the original project focus and overarching principles and to develop a business plan for the future. Raising local awareness of the project and developing better marketing tools were also felt to be important.

Funding is an ongoing challenge. Although the Timebank has been well funded to date, there is now a need to identify and source potential new funders as the current funding period is time limited.

At a personal level, staff spoke of their job fulfilment, pride in working in and with the local community and the tremendous personal benefits gained from being involved with a worthwhile project which is helping local people. Volunteers expressed appreciation in being able to access help at home by providing time and skills to others. Other benefits to volunteers included meeting other people with similar interests, forming new friendships locally and helping raise people’s confidence via their involvement in project groups.

Relevant links to other parts of the Understanding Glasgow site:  social capital, mindset, lifestyle, health, children’s safety, children’s lifestyle, children’s wellbeing