Daventry Time Bank under pressure from lack of grants available

One of the Time Bank's walks
One of the Time Bank's walks

What do you do if you are great at using computers, but need help with some sewing, or if you need help looking after your garden but would like to pass on your skills in the kitchen?

Daventry District Time Bank exists for exactly these type of cases. Members can volunteer their skills and time to other members, and in turn gain credits they can cause to ask other members to help them.

Helping someone improve their English

Helping someone improve their English

But the scheme is under threat from a lack of funding, which runs out at the end of December.

Project co-ordinator John Atkins said: “Time Bank in its current form has been going since 2012. We have 200 members, although not all are active.

“We are a scheme for people that want to provide others in the community with help. But Time Bank is different in that for every hour you help someone you get an hour back of help from someone else.

“We have members in credit and debit – it all depends on their circumstances. We help people brush up on their English skills so that later on they can volunteer. Or elderly people who need help but can’t offer much in return.

An art session

An art session

“We also have volunteers who are thousands of hours in credit because they do so much.

“We also run skills classes and social events for the members, so they get to know each other better like coffee mornings or art classes.

“The problem is that it takes a lot of coordinating.”

Currently Time Bank employs one person – John – using grants to coordinate and run the scheme. But at the end of the year that funding stops.

Tracy Turner, who volunteers as Time Bank’s promotional event co-ordinator, said: “We have applied for grants from various sources.

“Daventry District Council turned up down, not because they didn’t support us in principal, but because they don’t have the money. We applied to the Lottery and got a similar reply. Ideally we’d like a local company to step in and help, maybe sponsor us.”

John said: “We do have one source of funding we find out about in November.

“I currently work three days a week for Time Bank – 21 hours. If we get the funding the position will be for one day a week.

“If we don’t get the money the choices will either be to disband Time Bank, or to get the volunteers to run it, but that is a lot of responsibility and work to ask someone to do as a volunteer.

“Our current future plan is to scale-back Time Bank rather than end it, because hopefully when austerity ends it will be easier to get it back up again than if we simply ended on January 1.

“As I said, we have 200 members but that would be unmanageable, so we’d have to cut back to those who are more active. We’d have to reduce the number of skill sessions and social events we organise, and do a lot more fundraising ourselves.”

Tracy said: “We had a sale earlier this year to raise money, and it was fantastic, but it only raised a few hundred pounds and it took a lot of time and effort for something that only helps a very small amount.

“It makes me feel frustrated, angry and upset.

“When I was younger I used to help an elderly man who used to give us sweets in payment. That doesn’t happen now – we’ve lost that helping your neighbour attitude for whatever reason.

“That’s what Time Bank is about – helping the community. I have a neighbour who I look out for, and their garden got a bit weedy because they couldn’t manage it, so I used some of my Time Bank credits to get some people along to help out.

“I don’t help people because of what I get out of it, I help them because I like to see people smile because of something I’ve been able to do.

“It’s frustrating that all this is being put at risk over something like money.”

John said: “Another aspect is the impact we have on the wider social system. We help people learn how to use Facebook, and they can then reach out to others. We help people look after their homes when they might not be able to.

“We did a survey of our members recently and asked about their mental health, and 95 per cent of them said their mental health had stayed the same or improved during their time in Time Bank.

“These are people that are not having to turn to the statutory bodies, the NHS, and people like that, so it saves money.”