Using time banking to change services

This guest blog is by Jude from Time Banking organisation Spice. Contact details – and details of their conference – below. Spice are using time credits to bring reciprocity and partnership – co-production in the jargon – to all kinds of communities and services. I’m a big fan and the examples below should inspire any service. So thanks to Jude, who writes:

Over recent months it has felt like hardly a day has gone by without another story about social care hitting the headlines – few of them positive. Staff on zero-hours contracts, 15 minute care visits, high profile care failures – the list goes on. It’s hard to deny that these are challenging times for the sector, and for the people who work in it. There is a broad recognition and agreement that changes are needed to overcome these challenges – but what’s actually happening in services?

One example of introducing new ways of working is the programme Spice has been developing with Look Ahead Care and Support over the past two years. We are training support workers in 18 services to design and embed the principles of coproduction in their services for people with mental illness or learning disabilities, in both residential and floating support settings. This is being done through learning sessions on coproduction and then in turn implementing Time Credits programmes in each service enabling users and staff to collaborate on how the Credits are earned and spent. A Time Credit is a physical note that is earned for an hour’s contribution to a service or community and can be spent on an hour of activity such as an art class or museum visit.

Our – and Look Ahead’s – ambition is for Time Credits to help transform the way that users of services are involved in decision making and how the service is run, particularly in decisions about their day to day life and support . Time Credits are already incentivising many more service users to get more involved in their service, with participation in service user meetings rising from 2 to 15 in one service over 4 months, and a wide range of new activities starting up based around people’s interests resulting in over 500 hours given to services HSC3and peers and almost 200 hours spent in services and across London. People are earning credits for activities ranging from gardening and activity group setup to DJing at events, arranging social outings and setting up a peer-led women’s support group. Spending has included trips to the Tower of London, Museum of London and going climbing as well as accessing a range of new internal activities.  

Alongside the outcomes for service users that flow from increased confidence and choice,  we have been some very welcome impacts for support workers, around how they see their role and can use Time Credits as a tool to work with customers differently – translating coproduction from theory to practice. They are telling us that they are being offered a chance to be creative and bring inventiveness, fun and ‘thinking outside the box’ to their jobs, which can tend, due to the nature of care provision, to be full of routine. Staff are being empowered to take a lead on changing how services are provided, with the principles of personalisation underpinning this – they are taking people’s interests and skills as a starting point and are really enjoying the opportunity to collaborate with service users.

“I also learnt a lot about certain people’s passions, because a few of the guys are only really interested in gardening, they won’t do anything else. It’s good to zone in on these things when you find out about individuals and what they like doing, and you won’t know unless you facilitate these things and try”. Monique, Support Worker

Outcomes for staff and services broadly are vitally important for how we develop Time Credits in services and crucially to making coproduction sustainable in the longer term. Spice works to the principle that everyone is valuable and has something to contribute, that the solution to challenges can often be found within the serves and communities facing those challenges. This includes service users and also staff, if we are to succeed in achieving true co-production in services.

About Spice

Spice is a social enterprise that works with partner organisations to run Time Credits programmes in communities, local authorities and services in England and Wales, aiming to get more people involved in more meaningful ways. Our basic model is simple – anyone giving an hour of their time to their service or community earns a Time Credit, which can then be spent on an hourSpice of activity – from a local community party or play, to the Tower of London or the Parc y Scarlets rugby ground in Llanelli, South Wales.

Spice is holding a conference, ‘It’s About Time: Creating Meaningful Change in Services and Communities’ on Friday 15th November. Find out more and register at We still have complimentary places available – contact if you are interested!

The Young Foundation and Spice have just published a research report into the potential for coproduction in complex needs services ‘Together we can: Asset based approaches and complex needs service transformation’

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