Reducing social isolation is a growing issue in the UK, and research undertaken by the Campaign to End Loneliness has shown that ‘lacking social connections’ is as detrimental to your health as smoking 15 cigarettes a day. Successive evaluations of our programmes have shown that Time Credits are a proven tool to building social networks and reducing isolation, but how does this work in practice?
Here are three examples:
Supporting the sustainability of a community hub in a rural area
The North Marston Community Shop is a local shop and community hub situated in North Marston, a rural area of Buckinghamshire and a Buckinghamshire Time Credits member group. ‘The Shop’, opened in 2011, plays a vital role in reducing isolation for rural people, acting as a social hub locally and creating much-needed support networks. Steered by a management committee, the North Marston Community Shop is supported by a wonderful team of volunteers, who all earn Buckinghamshire Time Credits for the hours that they contribute to keep the shop running. The North Marston Community Shop was recently declared winner in the South East category of The Rural Community Ownership Awards 2016.
Buckinghamshire Time Credits works alongside key local authority, voluntary and NHS stakeholders to embed Time Credits in the delivery of the Buckinghamshire Prevention Matters programme. This programme is designed to help people to live healthily and independently for longer in Buckinghamshire.
From those surveyed in our 2016 impact evaluation, 67% of Buckinghamshire Time Credits members reported that they felt less isolated since earning and spending Time Credits. 81% had taken part in more community activities.
Providing opportunities for individuals to learn new skills and try new activities
For Saffy, a mother of four in Cambridgeshire, health conditions combined with the responsibilities of parenting had left her housebound, unemployed and experiencing feelings of severe isolation. In time, Saffy began to look for options, and through a connection made via a local class, she began volunteering at a local school and earning Cambridgeshire Time Credits. She also began using Time Credits to help afford activities for her whole family.
“Time Credits really helped with my self esteem because not only did I get positive feedback but I felt like I was earning and providing for my family,” she says. “You learn new things which then builds your confidence and makes you feel valued again as a person, not just a mother and wife.”
“The family spend more time together now engaging in activities and find it easy to exchange Time Credits for tickets.”
Through earning and spending Time Credits, Saffy’s boosted confidence, refreshed skills and experience led to her gaining employment once more.
Engaging isolated and disabled individuals through social prescribing
Our Carmarthenshire Time Credits team works alongside the County Council’s Community Resilience Officers and the voluntary sector to raise awareness of the issues facing older people, people with physical disabilities and people with sensory impairment. There is a higher than average number of older people resident in Carmarthenshire, South West Wales, and (in part due to the challenges of rurality) many are disconnected from their community and local services.
Here, Spice has successfully used a social prescribing approach to engage even the most isolated individuals and overcome their barriers to participation in Time Credits. We flipped the Time Credits model so that members begin their Time Credits journey by first experiencing the benefits of spending Time Credits, and sign a pledge to earn back the spent Time Credits, through volunteering. In this way, we have been able to draw even the hardest to reach individuals into participating in local activities and earning Time Credits!