Unabridged version: Rushey Green Time Bank

Rushey Green Time Bank - Social prescribing in Lewisham


Delivery organisation

The Rushey Green Group practice


Various including Big Lottery Fund (BIG) funding, programme value unknown.

About the project

The main delivery partners include the new economics foundation, the local garden centre, a local nursing home, Voluntary Action Lewisham, Downham Cycle Taxis, Lewisham Community Health Council and St Lawrence's Church.

The Rushey Green Time Bank is operated much like most time banks. Residents can accumulate credit by volunteering their time and can withdraw credit when they wish to access help. A coordinator or broker has been appointed to maintain accounts and match residents to volunteers and the hours that are exchanged.

The Rushey Green Time Bank was the first to be based in a healthcare setting. The underlying mission of the time bank is health focused: to improve the health and wellbeing of residents, specifically patients, and the community as a whole. The mission is the principle of co-production and a commitment to increasing the ‘core economy' through reciprocity, equity, trust, love and care to improve wellbeing of the family and community.

The big idea

The project was initiated by Dr Byng of the Rushey Green practice. He felt that his patients needed something more than medication and that isolation was one of the underlying problems facing his patients. Dr Byng had heard about the time bank movement and decided to establish a time bank in his practice. With the support of new economics foundation and the Kings fund, the Rushey Green Practice set up a pilot time bank project.

Setting up the project

The time bank was launched in March 2000, following consultation with patients and health workers from the group practice. After a three-year partnership between the healthcare practice and new economics foundation, the time bank registered as a charity and appointed a steering group and a board of trustees. The health practice continues to support the time bank.

In nine years (between 2000 and 2009) members have traded over 32,000 hours of exchanges. In March 2009, the time bank had attracted more than 200 participants, and five participating local organisations. Activities include a regular walking groups, chair-based exercises, art expression group and a weekly tea and chat group.

The main client groups are people over the age of 50, 44 per cent are BAME, 37 per cent have some sort of disability including mental health and anxiety and 45 per cent of people being referred from the practice. Few people go to work and most claim incapacity benefits. The participants are broadly representative of the local area. Doctors refer patients to the bank, especially in cases of long-term depression - because they find that taking part in the time bank can mean real improvements.

Participants are central to designing and supporting the time bank. This includes reaching out and recruiting new members in the community, helping to organise events and administrative duties in the office. Time bank works with volunteers alongside paid staff members.

An important role is the broker who matches people to skills. This is a complex role which requires a paid staff member. The coordinator works with people with mental health needs and monitoring safeguarding issues. In addition, volunteers may be less flexible and less consistent in committing time over a long period of time.

There were few real challenges in setting up the project. However, as the project has grown it now requires additional funding and this is a challenge. The project received Big Lottery Fund (BIG) funding, which ended in July 2008. Since then up to March 2009 the time bank has received funding from the Lewisham Primary Care Trust (PCT), Lloyds TSB Foundation, London Catalyst, and The Merchant Taylors Company.

Lessons learned

The key to setting up the project and delivering time banking has been co-production and getting local people involved. It is important that residents are able to organize and take the lead in volunteering.

One of the key messages from their evaluation is that the time bank is place of belonging. A lot of participants who come along felt isolated. The time bank provides both older residents and their children the assurance that they are safe and have someone to talk to.

Top tips to replicate this project in your locality

  • Start small. Steer away from anything that needs funding by trying to use an existing organisation as a host organization
  • Try not to go for something that needs constant funding or large sums of funding. The Time bank is run from a small room in a GP's practice.

What next?

Time bank are keen to hear new ideas on how to take time banking further. The popularity of time banking in the local area means that there is a lot of support from local residents who are keen to scale up. The Rushey Green Time Bank is helping to run three Lewisham libraries, of which the majority of the work will be done by volunteers on time credit.

15 September 2011

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